Qatar Today March 2013

Page 1


March 2013


cover story


The sky is the limit

The air transport market in the Middle East is undergoing a rapid transformation as passenger traffic begins to surge in the region, primarily because of the swift expansion of airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Meanwhile, the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha airports have launched massive expansion projects to match future traffic forecasts. They will have a combined capacity of 340 million passengers per year by 2020. Qatar Today puts the spotlight on Hamad International Airport, the latest entrant to the competition, to find out how it will affect other hubs in the region. Dubai Airports talks about competition and how it fares, while Gulf Air talks about its plan for the future. In the highly competitive aviation industry, this technological age is a blessing and a curse for airlines seeking to stay afloat and keep consumers happy. Qatar Today finds out how well airlines in the region perform when it comes to social media.



Special Report:

All that glitters is gold: Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition 2013

We spoke to the headliners and designers of DJWE 2013 to get all the glitzy, glamorous details of the yearly accessories-filled event.




Rory Coen talks to the CEO of the Qatar Financial Center Authority, Shashank Srivastava about why the financial centre is attracting so much international attention.

MARCH 2013

Qatar Today 3


March 2013



60 70


Honda adds some fizz to line-up

Rory Coen learns the advantages of ditching your dirty old car for a 2013 Honda Accord by going for a ride.

98 86


Jury still out on BB10

Since the BlackBerry 10’s recent release in Doha, our reviewer has been going through the seven emotional stages of new smartphone ownership.


What is Visual Social Marketing?

Brands need to switch up their online advertising strategies to adapt to the visual social media era.


Success through fitness

Rachel Petero, the brain behind Women Leading Change, identifies positivity and healthy living as her secrets to success and managing stress.


Censorship or selfcensorship?

Annalise Frank takes a look at media freedom in Qatar, from the daily fears of reporters to the prospects of the draft media law.

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MARCH 2013



Making stock investments in luxury goods like designer clothes and sports cars could leave you with the money to actually afford them!

regulars N e w s Bi t e s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 O & G Ov e rvi e w. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 Bank Notes................................................20 R e a l t y Ch e c k . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 8 A R AB SN I PPETS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 9 W o rld V i e w. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 0 TEC H TA L K . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 2 B R AK I NG N e w s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 6 Market Watch............................................94 D o h a D i a ry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 0

Volume 39

issue 3

march 2013

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Chief Executive Executive Vice President Vice President

Yousuf Jassem Al Darwish Sandeep Sehgal Alpana Roy Ravi Raman

Editor SENIOR CORRESPONDENTS senior Art Director deputy Art Director assistant art director senior Graphic Designer Photographer

Sindhu Nair rory coen eZdhar ibrahim abigail mathias Venkat Reddy Hanan Abu Saiam Ayush Indrajith maheshwar reddy R obert F ALTImirano

senior Manager – Marketing Zulfikar Jiffry ASSISTANT MANAGERS – MARKETING Chaturka Karandana THOMAS JOSE senior Media Consultant HASSAN REKKAB LYDIA YOUSSEF MARKETING RESEARCH AND SUPPORT EXECUTIVE KANWAL BALUCH senior Accountant Pratap Chandran Sr. Distribution Executive Bikram Shrestha Distribution Support Arjun Timilsina Bhimal Rai basanta pokhrel

Published by Oryx Advertising Co WLL, P.O. Box 3272; Doha-Qatar Tel: (+974) 44672139, 44550983, 44671173, 44667584 Fax: (+974) 44550982 Email: website: Printed at: Gulf Publishing and Printing Co WLL Copyright © 2013 Oryx Advertising Co WLL

Qatar Today invites readers’ feedback Share your views on the magazine or any issue connected to Qatar. One lucky reader will win an exquisite Mont Blanc writing instrument.

1 0 Qatar Today

MARCH 2013

published by oryx advertising co wll, All rights reserved. qatar today is published monthly by oac, po box no. 3272, doha, qatar. subscription rate for qr. 180 per year. address for all subscription correspondence to qatar today, oryx advertising co wll, po box 3272, al hilal area, doha, state of qatar. for single copies call us on + 974 44672139 or mail to material in this publication must not be stored or reproduced in any form without permission. request for permission should be directed to reprint requests should be directed to the qatar today is registered trademark of oryx advertising co wll reprint requests should be directed to the qatar today is registered trademark of oryx advertising co wll reprint requests should be directed to the

Write to: The Editor, Qatar Today, PO Box 3272, Doha. Fax: (+974) 44550982, email: Qatar Today reserves the right to edit and publish the correspondence. Views and opinions expressed in the published letters may not necessarily be the publication’s views and opinions.

March 2013

fr o m t h e d e s k


is good reporting or journalism all about? ACCORDING TO the Society of Professional Journalists, Journalism MEANS providing information thAT THE public needs to know. it emphasises the importance of free speech, gives A fair and TRUTHFUL ACCOUNT of news, and most importantly (to me, AT LEAST) makes you courageous to deliver a story as objectively as possible.

My personal favourite definition, which hints at a rather glorified profession, says that journalism isn’t just about providing raw information, but also about advising people how to use information to improve their lives, and inspire them to want to. Sadly, many (but not all) journalists I have met here rarely think of journalism with such passion; for them it is just a job that they perform with diligence, which works well in most circumstances. But there come instances like the gang rape in Delhi at the end of last year, when journalists woke up to the situation and inspired activists to stand up for women’s rights in a country that has the worst history of incidents committed against the girl-child. Such situations would be rare here in Qatar, given the fairly cocooned and safe life we all lead. But when situations that stoke our reporting instincts do present themselves, why do we back away and take the safe path? Is it the comfort of the “secure” life, or the fear that comes with the lack of a proper definition on what is “acceptable” and what is not, that pulls us back? Or is it the immature advertising market that funds only the positivePR-carrying press? Qatar Today investigates the issue of censorship, talking to the media, freedom monitors and experts to bring you the truth of the matter. Mired in controversy and still meeting with scepticism is the opening date of Qatar’s new airport facilities. Doha tweople tweeted that the new inaugural date of April 1, 2013 was yet another unintended pun! But what cannot be ignored is the beauty and the finesse of the final product. We have some select images of the new Hamad International Airport and exclusive interviews with the chief architect and some members of the Steering Committee to prove that details do matter, especially when the scale of the project is humongous. And Qatar Today brings to you an insider report on the aviation sector in the region, with three airlines vying for the top slot. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. An honest review of the BB10 – a product the whole world seems to be raving about, a Honda ride, traffic travails and a spotlight on some of the glittering luxury goods from the DJWE 2013, all add up to make March’s Qatar Today a solid read.

Sindhu Nair

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letters feedback

Sporty Cover I especially loved the February cover of Qatar Today. The story as well as the cover image was apt for the month of February as the country celebrates ITS National Sports Day. I hope that on February 12 all of us, Qataris and non-Qataris come out of their homes and enjoy a day of fun, frolic and health. SAMY MOHAMED

Watery vegetables

Your report on hydroponics was insightful and refreshing. I hadn’t given much thought to where my vegetables come from. R.W. STUART

“I am not a revolutionary artist”

I can’t contain my excitement for el Seed’s calligraffiti art that will be spray painted onto Salwa Road. I’m glad the city will be beautified by such a unique and talented artist. Thanks for the opportunity to learn about him and his past...I might even buy one of those scarves he is designing with Louis Vuitton.

qt poll – March

Poll result is based on messages received till 20th of every month




Sports Day

What a remarkable day! I was able to bring my son out and he was able to try his hand at some many different sports. He especially loved trying to put the ball into the hole on the golf mat and I think this may be his calling. I would like to thank all the volunteers and organisers for organising this very enjoyable day.


An Internet Haven

It’s interesting to read in February’s issue how Qatar can become an Internet leader in the region. With the recent reports that 4G and the hi-speed fiber optic network are just months away, then Qatar will become a haven for budding entrepreneurs. It should not only bud new innovation, but should also attract talent from abroad.

gerald power

SMS answers to +974 33072524 A lucky winner will win a NOKIa C5-03

ARE YOU a member of a sports league? Qatar Today invites readers’ feedback

66% 34% Yes


The winning number of the last QT poll is 33470919

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MARCH 2013

Share your views on the magazine or any issue connected to Qatar. One lucky reader will win an exquisite MontBlanc writing instrument. Write to: The Editor, Qatar Today, PO Box 3272, Doha. Fax: (+974) 44550982, email: Qatar Today reserves the right to edit and publish the correspondence. Views and opinions expressed in the published letters may not necessarily be the publication’s views and opinions.

Check out all articles of Qatar Today on www.QATARTODAYONLINE.COM follow us on

censorship or self-censorship 62


COLOMBIA, Bogotá: The Emir, hh Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos shake hands during a meeting at Narino Palace in Bogota on February 15. The Emir and the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, also visited Ecuador and Peru during their official stay in South America.

Qatar setting up Global Investment Company


atar is creating a QR43.6 billion ($12 billion) investment fund to buy distressed assets overseas and will tender shares to potential investors in the coming weeks. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA)’s foreign investment arm, Qatar Holding, will contribute 75% to the fund, which is being operated by Doha Global Investment Company. The company will seek to raise the balance from various local companies, financial institutions and businessmen, as well as Qatari nationals. “The aim is for the initial public offering to happen in May or June,” said Ahmad Mohamed Al-Sayed, CEO, Qatar Holding. “The main purpose of this company is to bring the Qatari private sector the opportunity to enjoy the access that Qatar Holding has.” The fund will invest in a range of assets including real estate, bonds and equities and promises to pay a dividend of at least 5% in its first year.

QR364 million support to Syrian Opposition

Close on the heels of a decision to hand over the Syrian Embassy in Qatar to the Syrian opposition, Qatar has provided financial support worth QR364 million ($100 million) to the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The aid, which comes under the directives of the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has been handed over to the Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit in Syria. Nizar Al-Haraki, the new Syrian ambassador to Qatar representing the National Coalition, appreciated the gesture, saying it reflected how deeply the Qatari government and its people have been involved to solve the Syrian crisis and reduce the suffering of the Syrian people.

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news bites

QF advancing children’s health


atar Foundation (QF) is contributing to the advancement of paediatric care to improve the lives of families in Qatar. Mary Jo Haddad, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Canada, visited QF to discuss a partnership. SickKids is a healthcare, teaching and research centre dedicated exclusively to advancing paediatric care globally. As part of this commitment, the institution’s leadership signed an agreement last June to provide advice and support to Sidra Medical and Research Centre (SMRC)’s clinical and research programmes. “This is an excellent opportunity to welcome the leadership and advice of SickKids. The hospital is a highly recognised academic and medical centre that can not advance not only paediatrics but also biomedical research at Qatar Foundation,” explained Dr Fathy Saoud, President of Qatar Foundation and Vice-Chairperson of the Board of Governors for SMRC and Chairman of the Executive Committee. “SickKids has been selected as a strategic clinical research partnership with Qatar Foundation’s flagship project, SMRC, and its valuable contribution is greatly appreciated.”

We welcome the Emir as the guest of all Africa. We are looking forward to his visit with high appreciation because Qatar is playing a very important role regionally and internationally, taking the side of the people and their rights.

Ethiopian Prime Minister and Chairman of the African Union Hailemariam Desalegn invites the Emir of QATAR, HH Sheikh hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to his country.

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British Royals to visit Qatar The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will undertake official visits to Qatar and then Jordan and Oman from March 11 to March 19, 2013. They will see first-hand how the country is tackling its food security challenges, visit British technology, innovation and educational partnerships with Qatar and attend a major event to celebrate the “QatarUK Year of Culture 2013”.


accepting submissions


ISE, the World Innovation Summit for Education, has opened the submission period for the 2013 WISE Awards. By recognising projects that are having a positive and tangible impact on education, the WISE Awards seek to highlight today’s most innovative initiatives in education from around the world. Applicants must demonstrate how their project has, through education, made a positive contribution within a community or society. In addition to projects taking place in schools, previous submissions have included creative initiatives from the vocational, corporate and agricultural sectors. HE Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al Thani, PhD, Chairman of WISE, stated: “Through the WISE Awards, we are not only seeking out and honouring projects that solve real-world challenges to education, but we are ultimately creating a toolbox of best practices in education. Thanks to WISE’s diverse, global platform, we are able to showcase these projects for communities around the world to replicate. In 2013, we are working to encourage more applications from different countries. We know that there are many exciting projects taking place and we want to recognise and share this work. There is a lot that Qatar can teach the world.”

news bites

Qtel is now Ooredoo


tel Group has changed its brand name to Ooredoo, and that each of its operating companies in emerging markets across the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia will adopt the new brand during the course of 2013 and 2014. The announcement was made by Ooredoo Chairman His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani at a special launch event at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. Football star Lionel “Leo” Messi was announced as its global brand ambassador. Qatari sports star, Nasser Al Attiyah is another brand Ambassador. “Ooredoo” is an Arabic word that means “I want”.

Doha to host World Cargo Symposium


atar Airways is set to host the seventh World Cargo Symposium from March 1214. The three-day event of the world’s largest meeting of air-freight industry executives, airline officials and other stakeholders is expected to discuss the most pressing issues faced by the industry. The symposium, organised annually by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will focus on actions for sustainability and, in particular, the role of the Middle East in the burgeoning air cargo

industry. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker said that the freighter industry is facing changing demands in the industrial and private sectors as we see an increase in activity and investment worldwide. “Here in Doha, the demand for increased freighter services inbound has seen our own airline increase its capacity, as well as reaching out to new destinations as the demand for outbound cargo around the world intensifies. Just last year we added ten destinations to our worldwide cargo network.”

Falls from heights on the rise


njuries caused by falling from heights are on the rise in Qatar due to the failure of employers to provide the required safety measures at work sites, according to an expert at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). The Trauma Care Centre at HMC has seen a significant increase in the number of people treated for injuries caused by falls from heights, though the majority of such cases are easily preventable.

“Injuries due to falling from heights at work sites have reached more than 1,000 per year, compared with an average 600 in 2008,” said Dr Ahmad Zarour, Director, Trauma Intensive Care Unit at HMC. “The authorities must be strict on rules and regulations to force these companies to take all safety measures and make it obligatory at all construction sites,” he added. Falling from heights is the second major cause of serious injuries in Qatar, traffic accidents being the first.

The Qatari Constitution has adopted the principles in the constitutions of leading democracies in the world and has integrated them with the Arab and Islamic identity of the Qatari society. This is what makes it capable to respond to the political, social and economic development of the country and its people.

Professor Raad Naji Mustafa Al-Jidda, a legal expert and former lecturer constitutional law AT Baghdad University


growth in the number of tourists visiting Qatar in 2012 (Qatar Tourism Authority)

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news bites

Reducing traffic deaths

a growing challenge By e z dhar al i


Traffic Department failed to reach its ambitious targets for 2012, it was revealed last month. Brig. Muhammed Saad Al-Kharji, Director of the Traffic Department, said he was hoping for better figures in relation to traffic accidents, but expressed satisfaction nonetheless in relation to the declining figure and also the reduction in the number of road traffic deaths compared to 2011 despite the increase in the number of vehicles using the roads across the country, higher population and more new motorists. Al-Kharji pointed out that 204 persons died on the roads in 2012, compared with 205 in 2011; the number of new vehicles registered in 2012 reached 88,146 – an increase of over 18,000 vehicles from 2011; and the number of new licensed motorists increased by about 3,000 to stand at nearly 108,000. He indicated that the downward trend of traffic accidents against the backdrop of that massive increase in the numbers of vehicles and motorists points to a better future for the traffic situation in the country. Col. Ibrahim Saad Al-Sulaiti, Head of Statistical Analysis at the Office of HE the Minister of State for Interior Affairs, gave a detailed explanation of the traffic situation in the country during 2012, pointing out

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Summary of Traffic Status (2012) No. of vehicles



% change

814, 373

876, 039

7.6 % 11.6 %

No. of accidents which caused injuries

3, 780

4, 218

Number of major injuries



3.2 %

Number of deaths



– 0.5 %

833, 796

1, 167, 346

39.2 %

Number of traffic violations

Important Traffic Indices 2011


% change



2.8 %

Ratio of traffic accidents per 10,000 vehicles



3.7 %

Ratio of major injuries from traffic accidents per 100,000 persons



– 4.7 %

Ratio of major injuries from traffic accidents per 1,000 traffic accidents



– 11.1 %

Ratio of major injuries from traffic accidents per 10,000 vehicles



– 2.8 %

Ratio of traffic accident deaths per 100,000 persons



– 8.1 %

Ratio of traffic deaths per 1,000 accidents



– 15.4 %

Ratio of traffic deaths per 10,000 vehicles




Ratio of serious traffic accidents



– 9.5 %

Ratio of traffic accidents which caused injuries per 10,000 persons

news bites

Raising awareness is key


E Brig. Mohammed Saad Al-Kharji says the age of those who die in traffic accidents ranges from 18 to 35. He says this indicates a deficient traffic culture and reckless driving among this age group. He adds that there are 180 different nationalities living in Qatar, a major cause of difficulty in spreading traffic awareness due to the language barrier, especially as some people know neither Arabic nor English. This is why the Traffic Department has started to meet with the heads of various communities to give them special awareness guidelines on traffic so that they can educate their communities in their own languages, adding that these meetings are going to be held periodically. He expanded further on the growing challenges facing the Traffic Department with Qatar Today. Which violations are most responsible for traffic accidents? Speeding is biggest cause of accidents, whether on highways or on secondary roads. All necessary measures are being taken to control the phenomenon of excessive speed. More radars are being posted on highways; the distance between two radars is being reduced to 2 km from 4 km; and those caught driving at double the speed limit are immediately charged with criminal offences. Explain the violation of overtaking from the right side, and the radars being used to check this violation. Work is under way to install radars to detect overtaking from the right, and they have been tested already in some of Doha’s streets. Overtaking from the right, besides being an obvious violation of the traffic law, is highly threatening to traffic safety. This aspect has a moral side, too, as motorists should respect the rights of others to the road and refrain from encroaching on this right. What about the road safety of pedestrians? Why, in your opinion, have no solutions been found for pedestrian crossings, even on some new streets?

The department is coordinating with the Public Works Authority (Ashgal) to build tunnels and flyovers for pedestrian crossings. Moreover, the Traffic Department is in the process of installing radars to check motorists’ violations at pedestrian crossing points. I strongly urge motorists to respect pedestrian Zebra crossing lines and stop, in case there are pedestrians wanting to cross the road. There are real problems on the Industrial Area Road and 22 February Street. There are many accidents and high traffic congestion on these two streets. In your view, what is the cause for this and what are the suitable remedies? The main cause for traffic congestion in the industrial area is the lack of an efficient road infrastructure there, and the roads are dilapidated. Thus the solution is to restructure the whole area and add tunnels and overhead pedestrian crossings. The main reason for traffic difficulties on 22 February Street lies with motorists’ disrespect for the speed limits, especially when some of them drive too slowly on the leftmost side of the road causing their vehicles to be hit from behind.

Global ratio of traffic deaths

Average ratio in western countries

17 per 100,000 persons

10 deaths per 100,000 persons

that the strategy of the Ministry of Interior in the realm of traffic safety from 2011 to 2016 aims at reducing the number of serious traffic accidents from 300 to 250; the average annual traffic mortality rate to 10 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants; the rate of pedestrian deaths to less than 17% of annual traffic-associated deaths as per the global standard; and the ratio of traffic deaths to 10% of the country’s total mortality rate by 2016. Al-Sulaiti said the biggest talking point of the review was the death toll being 7.7% down on the number of expected deaths, which was 221, indicating that improvements in the traffic department’s performance during 2012 led to a decline of 9.5% in the proportion of serious traffic accidents. The traffic report also covered statistics for the number of the injuries caused by traffic accidents, showing a notable increase in the number minor injuries and a decline in the number of major injuries and deaths

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O & G overview


Remarkable safety milestone recorded

Barzan Project is currently utilising more than

In Figures:

Rasgas projects



Helium 2 Project peaked at



asGas Company Limited (RasGas) recently celebrated a major milestone with the successful completion of 30 million man-hours with no Lost Time Incident (LTI). The company’s Venture Group, which manages several huge projects ranging from the Barzan Project to the Helium 2 Project, honoured its employees and contractors who made this achievement possible at a celebration in Doha. “Achieving 30 million man-hours without an LTI is an outstanding achievement, especially given the size and pace of the megaprojects that this team is executing. Our employees, contractors and workers, many from different parts of the world, have worked tirelessly to ensure that we have an injury-free workplace. Today we celebrate this focus on excellence in safety and we will renew our commitment to sustaining an injury-free workplace as we continue to execute our projects reliably and with integrity,” said Hamad Rashid AlMohannadi, Managing Director, RasGas.

Tasweeq to supply 20 kbd of condensate to ENOC


mirates National Oil Company (ENOC) has signed a contract with the Qatar International Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (Tasweeq) for the supply of 20 kbd (thousand barrels per day) of condensate for its Jebel Ali refinery. The annual contract underlines the commitment of ENOC to explore new condensate suppliers to ensure a steady supply of refined products and meet the growing domestic requirement for fuel products in Dubai. The contract was signed between Tayyeb Al-Mulla, Managing Director Supply, Trading and Processing, ENOC, and Saad Abdulla Al-Kuwari, Chief Executive Officer of Tasweeq. Tayyeb Al-Mulla said: “ENOC and Tasweeq are long-term partners, with ENOC being the first to off-take condensate from the Qatari organisation during the start of the Dolphin and North Field projects in 2007. Building on these relations, ENOC has been regularly receiving condensate from Tasweeq to partially meet the needs of its condensate splitter in the UAE.”

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Rasgas and CMUQ agree to collaborate AN MOU paving the way for mutually beneficial initiatives and projects in the future was signed by Hamad Rashid Al-Mohannadi, RasGas Managing Director, and Ilker Baybars, Dean and Chief Executive Officer of CMUQ.

Gazprom inaugurated HE Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry and Chairman and Managing Director of qatar petroleum, inaugurated Gazprom’s representative office in Doha last month. The opening ceremony was attended by Dr Viktor Zubkov, Special Presidential Representative for cooperation with the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) and Chairman of Gazprom Board of Directors; Russian Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Fedorov; the first GECF Secretary-General, Leonid Bokhanovskiy; the Charge d’Affaires of the Russian Federation in Qatar, Dmitry Trofimov; and the Head of Gazprom’s International Business Department, Pavel Oderov.



bank notes

Qatar to offer sovereign bonds


he International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that Qatar plans to issue local currency sovereign bonds with three- and five-year maturities this year as part of its efforts to build a yield curve for its debt market. “They did not mention the timing of the issuance, but there will be more than one issuance and the objective is to build a domestic sovereign yield curve,” said Ananthakrishnan Prasad, the IMF’s mission chief for Qatar. He said the government did not disclose any specific amounts or other details of the bond sales to the IMF, which concluded regular consultations with Qatar earlier in the month. The bond issues could be a big step forward in Qatar’s efforts to attract investment to its debt market, helping fund its massive infrastructure-building plans. Qatar issued local currency bonds in January 2011 when the Qatar Central Bank issued a QR50 billion ($14 billion) three-year bond directly to local banks as a step to drain excess money from the banking system. “These bonds were one-off issuances, and there has been no secondary market trading. Now they want to build the domestic bond yield curve, so the new issuances will be tradable instruments,” Prasad explained.

Doha Bank extends its 0% loan offer


oha Bank has extended its 0% personal loan offer, launched in 2012, for an additional three months. The personal loan offer aims to give consumers the flexibility of consolidating their existing loans and transferring them to Doha Bank at reduced rates and smaller installments. Dr R. Seetharaman, Doha Bank Group CEO, said: “This is the best time for Doha Bank’s new and existing customers to benefit from this extended offer for another three-month period. It gives people the ability to further expand their investment horizons and commit to assets and projects that will be beneficial to their families and lives. For those who have already leveraged their loan eligibility, this is also a good opportunity to take a breather and defer some payments while benefiting from an initial interest-free period that can prove invaluable to their overall financial health.” Meanwhile, Seetharaman was honoured with the prestigious title of Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Directors (IoD) at the 23rd World Congress Leadership and Quality of Governance and Presentation of Golden Peacock Awards. The event was hosted by the IoD at the Lalit Ashok hotel in Bangalore last month.

QFC relaxed on Islamic Finance tax


he Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) and Turkey have the most Islamic financefriendly tax systems out of eight countries in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. Phase 1 of a study sponsored by QFC, in partnership with the Washington, DCbased International Tax and Investment Centre, showed that while simple Islamic finance transactions can be carried out in some countries without prohibitive tax costs, of the countries reviewed only Turkey and the QFC have a tax system that enables sukuk transactions to be carried out without excessive tax costs. The study examined two alternative approaches a country can take to update its tax system to support Islamic finance transactions, and concluded by recommending the one that is adopted in Malaysia as being quicker and simpler to implement for Muslim-majority countries. Ian Anderson, Chief Finance and Tax Officer at the QFC Authority, said: “Islamic finance is of growing importance within the region, but the taxation systems of almost all MENA countries were developed in an environment of conventional finance. This too often means that Islamic finance suffers an additional and unfair tax burden not borne by conventional finance. This report points out the best way forward to help level the playing field.”

AJF signs Murabaha agreement Al Jazeera Finance (AJF) signed a $95 million (QR345.8 million) three-year dual currency Murabaha facility with a syndicate of banks from the GCC, its first syndicated financing transaction. Murabaha is a particular kind of sale, compliant with Sharia law, where the seller expressly mentions the cost he has incurred on the commodities for sale and sells it to another person by adding some profit or mark-up thereon which is known to the buyer. QInvest acted as Sole Bookrunner and Structuring Advisor to AJF. Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) took the Mandate Lead Arranger (MLA) role and is also acting as the Investment Agent. Ahli United Bank, First Gulf Bank UAE and QInvest were the Lead Arrangers.

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ban k n ot es

Adding property to your portfolio? There are certain sectors within the property asset class that are providing solid and low-volatility returns, say experts at Guardian Wealth Management.


is fair to say that the outlook for property in the Western developed world is not what it once was. Economic uncertainty, static incomes and tighter lending from the banking sector hardly provide an ideal environment for property prices. However, property investment has always been a popular choice with expats, its beauty being that you can see it, you can touch it and, for most of us, it’s ingrained in our national identity. But the question is, how do you hold property in your portfolio if you do not believe that the traditional buy-to-lets are going to provide the returns of yesteryear and you don’t fancy the time and cost restraints that come with dealing with an asset perhaps thousands of miles away? Martin Ellis, housing economist for Halifax, a UK bank, predicts minimal change in UK house prices this year against an economic backdrop of marginal growth and various global economic risks. So why would you add property to your portfolio at all? Well, there are certain sectors within the property asset class that are providing solid and low-volatility returns. Indeed student accommodation is becoming one of the more popular ways to invest in property.

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Why this asset class? We all understand the effects of supply and demand on prices. If you have over-demand and under-supply then prices rise. Think of it like diamonds: The price is kept high as the supply is carefully controlled. Since 2007, 155,000 students in the UK have been forced to move into private rented accommodation due to there being no student accommodation available. This could be why investment in student accommodation by private investors rose over 100% to QR4.5 billion (£800 million) in the first half of 2012. So while traditional property prices have been left wanting, student accommodation has been bucking the trend. As well as proving resilient to recession, it also safeguards against inflation risk. The rental income, which provides a lot of the return, is particularly inelastic. It is a necessity for students to live somewhere and, with the Bank of Mum and Dad providing the majority of funds, along with the natural rise in rents each year, the inflation protection is particularly evident. The Mansion House Student Accommodation Fund is one fund that invests in student accommodation within close proximity to the UK’s red-brick universities and provides investors with an asset class not correlated to traditional markets.

bank not es Master Portfolio

Asset Value by Location (%)


No of Buildings

No of Beds

Beds Total








































1% 3%

(*All data sourced from the investment Advisor) 10%


9% 7%

10% 8% 38%









London (*All data sourced from the investment Advisor)

Diversification Investing in property through a fund will, in most instances, provide a higher level of diversification than investing directly. Let’s say you wish to invest directly in student accommodation, as you believe it is an asset class that is and will continue to be in high demand by renters. Which university city do you choose? What happens if you pick the wrong city? A nasty example would be Belfast in Northern Ireland, where property prices have plummeted 50% since 2007. How do you ensure that this doesn’t happen to you? By choosing a fund, your invested money will be diversified through a number of different locations, thus spreading your risk. An example of the diversification of the Mansion House Student Accommodation Fund can be seen above. What are the risks? In the past there have been instances where property funds have experienced periods of illiquidity. If a large number of investors want access to their funds all at once it may not be possible. Propfeedback

erty is not an asset that can be immediately realised to cash at short notice. If traditional stocks are like turning a jet ski, holding property can sometimes be like trying to U-turn an oil tanker. It is something that all investors in the property asset class, whether it be a direct investment or through a fund, should bear in mind. Who is this type of investment likely to appeal to? A property fund is appropriate to any investor with a mid- to long-term investment horizon looking for the uncorrelated performance of property against traditional stock market investments but not wanting the administrative headache of physically owning the asset. A fund such as this will usually be a small element of any portfolio. Investors should be aware that access to these funds is on a monthly basis and it would always be suggested that a five-year outlook is prudent. Before making any investment decisions please consult your regulated financial consultant


MARCH 2013

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If you have not been able to own any of those products with the fashion label or that fancy car, you can rake in the moolah by investing in them instead, says Sowmya Sundar, as she talks to experts on the business of luxury investments.

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indulgence ber of pieces sold for record values, suggesting that an appetite for the finer things in life shows no signs of slowing,” he says. The luxury goods segment has consistently outperformed broad markets even during the downturn. The S&P Global Luxury Goods Index, which tracks a portfolio of 80 of the largest publicly-traded companies engaged in the production and distribution of luxury goods, is up 12.5% over a year (data as of February 18, 2013) as against a rise of 5.13% for the S&P Global Broad Markets (BMI) Index for the same Multi-year run The luxury goods segment is on a multi-year run and period. The latter is a comprehensive index comprised of S&P Developed BMI is worth dabbling in, according and S&P Emerging BMI. to David Russell, CEO, Guard“Pictet Premium Brands ian Wealth Management Qahas proved one of the besttar. “Whether it’s art, watches, performing funds over the classic cars or diamonds, cerpast three years, reporting a tain investments will never The S&P Global Luxury Goods whopping 82% rise. The Julius lose their allure. Luxury goods Index, which tracks a portfolio Baer Luxury Brands Fund rose continue to be a sparkling nearly 12% between Noveminvestment in times of turof 80 of the largest publicly ber 2011 and November 2012. bulence. For the first half of traded companies engaged in Now seems to be the oppor2012, auction house Christie’s tune moment for investors to worldwide sales rose 13% comthe production and get into the luxury goods acpared with the same period for distribution of luxury goods is tion,” says Russell. the previous year. It reported up 12.5% over a year Explaining the drivers for bids from 124 countries, with the unabated interest in luxury a 31% jump in the number of goods, Richard Rogers of DoAsian clients looking to buy in minion Funds Management, New York and London. Aucwho was in Doha recently to tioneer Sotheby’s said a numin luxury can leave you richer. Recession or not, the super-wealthy in the ever-growing emerging markets seem to have all the cash to snap up “the good things in life”. The list of goodies that the burgeoning billionaires and the wannabes are willing to spend on is on the rise. Powered by the strong appetite of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, the stocks of luxury goods makers are on a multi-year run.

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“For the first half of 2012, auction house Christie’s worldwide sales rose 13% compared to the same period for the previous year. It reported bids from 124 countries, with a 31% jump in the number of Asian clients looking to buy in New York and London.” David Russell, CEO, Guardian Wealth Management, Qatar

Qatar Today 2 7


“There are 300 to 400 million people in the world today in the affluent middle class. We think that is going to double or triple in the next 10 years.” Richard Rogers Dominion Funds Management

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“It is not just handbags and jewellery. There is address a seminar hosted by Guardian Wealth Management says, “There are 300 to 400 million people in much more to the theme and much more to the the world today in the affluent middle class. We think universe of stock,” says Russell. As disposable income increases Dominion believes that is going to double or triple in the next 10 years. The buying power of luxury goods for these people that consumers tend to spend more on outdoor and is increasing. This is the trend that has been running leisure activities. The portfolio of Dominion Global for the last three to four decades, and we expect this Trends Consumer includes a pharmaceutical comto continue for another two to three decades. Global pany that makes Botox, a high-end bicycle comtrends are big structural changes that have a pattern ponent manufacturer, technology companies and and longevity. They go beyond geographical boundar- Starbucks – another aspirational product in the ies and are not upset by short-term politics or prob- emerging world,” he says. A number of luxury fund lems around the world. This is managers include stocks such a long-term opportunity.” as Apple and Samsung in their Dominion Fund Manageportfolios. ment is a Guernsey-based asset management company Best of East and West that manages the Dominion The theme gives exposure to Global Trends Consumer companies that are well-govFund; a fund that invests in erned, have a clear marketing luxury goods. Asia will account for 50% of strategy and reinvest their all global luxury sales in ten profits in the growing emergNaturally diversified years’ time from its current ing markets. Most luxury Luxury goods are not limited goods companies are listed in to a particular region or sec23%. the West, either in Europe or tor. Spanning across sectors North America, and thereby and catering to a certain class score high on governance whose buying power is largeand transparency indicators. ly insulated from economic The products, however, sell in shocks, the theme is naturally emerging markets riding on diversified, says Rogers. the boom there. “Luxury goods have strong brands that give them pricing power and above-average profits. The companies re- How much to invest invest profits in the emerging market because that is Rogers is of the view that the luxury theme deserves where the wealth is accumulating,” reasons Rogers. a high proportion within an equity portfolio as the Explaining the “retail tourism” phenomenon among theme is naturally diversified and it plays out through the Chinese, Richard says the Chinese travel to the a wide range of sub-categories. A Barclays Wealth report revealed that on average, UK and Europe to buy luxury goods as it is cheaper to high net worth individuals invested nearly 10% of buy abroad than back home due to high luxury taxes. Dominion Fund Management recently said it ex- their total net worth into collectibles. This doubles to pected Asia to account for 50% of all global luxury as much as 18% for respondents in the UAE and 17% in Saudi Arabia and China. sales in ten years’ time from its current 23%. Adrian Reed, a personal investor, expressed his “Emerging markets are firmly pushing profits for luxury companies. China is now a crucial market for concerns about looking too far into the future. “A many luxury brands as its inhabitants seek to emulate trend for two to three decades is difficult to predict in the trappings of the West. It’s not just the Far East; these times and I am not sure how sustainable it is. I spending from Middle Eastern shoppers too shows no have to look deeply into the portfolio before considersigns of slowing. Data from shopping operator Glob- ing an investment. The theme, though, is interesting,” al Blue reveals that collectively, shoppers from the he says. For Roger Phillips, another investor, the immediate Middle East had the highest average monthly spend in the UK, of all non-EU countries from January to connect and familiarity of the theme works for him. “Many investors in Qatar invest in real estate beOctober,” says Russell. cause they can feel it and understand it. Some investment products are complex and you cannot identify Beyond luxury Dominion Fund, a fund house that manages a number with them. You are attracted to something that you of luxury funds, invests not just in luxury but in aspi- can relate to. From that perspective, a luxury fund is attractive,” he says rational goods too.

MARCH 2013


realty check

MULTI-MILLION contract awarded sheireb Properties has appointed Qatari Arabian Construction Co. WLL (QACC) as the main building contractor for QR330 million worth of restoration and construction work in the Heritage Quarter within Phase 1A of its Downtown

Doha project. The contract involves restoring four historical houses, known as the “Heritage Houses”, renovating the Eid prayer ground, and building the Juma’a Mosque dating back to the first decade of the last century. The restored Heritage Houses – Jalmood House, Company House, Mohamed Bin Jassim House and Al Radwani House – will be the centerpiece of the quarter, creating an important cultural destination within the Msheireb project. The four courtyard houses, including the family house of Mohammed Bin Jassim, the son of the founder of modern Qatar, will be converted into museums, cultural centres and exhibition buildings. In the process, they will bring back significant aspects of Qatar’s history and shared memories. The renovation and construction contract also includes landscaping and paving works throughout the Heritage Quarter, located in the northeast section of Msheireb Downtown Doha. Covering 110,000 square metres of gross floor area, Phase 1A also incorporates the Diwan Amiri Quarter, the Amiri Guard residences and the Qatar National Archive.

Qatar to spend QR435 billion on projects by 2020

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he bidding process for the ambitious Qatar Rail project will begin soon. Excavation work on tunnels for the underground rail lines is expected to start by the end of 2013, a senior official of Qatar Rail said during Qatar Projects 2013. “Construction work for the Qatar Rail project will begin by the end of 2013, and during the peak construction period over 20,000 workers are expected to work daily until 2016,” Ahmed Nassar Al-Kowsi, Logistics Director of Qatar Rail, said on the sidelines of Qatar Projects 2013. According to Al Kowsi, over the period of the next 10 years Qatar is expected to announce about 500 projects related to infrastructure development, including railways, roads, electricity (construction and upgrade of power grids), stadiums, hotels and others.

In Numbers


Qatar Rail on track

qatar rail

8 billion

tonnes of steel will be needed to complete the project, enough to build about 200 Eiffel towers.

17 million

cubic metres of excavated material will be generated from the metro project.

atar’s ambitious megaprojects will surge ahead, with QR436.8 billion ($120 billion) worth of projects to be undertaken by 2020. Much of the government spending on megaprojects will be funded by revenues from oil and gas exports, which last year accounted for 70% of state revenues. “Our energy sector has played a central role in supporting the economy of Qatar. Last year, oil and gas exports accounted for 50% of GDP (gross domestic product) and 70% of government revenues. The government will continue to rely on these revenues in the future,” said Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, in a speech delivered on his behalf by Hamad Rashid Al-Mohannadi, Managing Director of Rasgas and Vice-Chairman of Qatar Petroleum, at the MEED Qatar Projects 2013 conference last month. Much of the country’s spending is driven by its need to prepare for the 2022 FIFA football World Cup, which will require 12 stadiums, 90,000 hotel rooms and the infrastructure to accommodate more than 400,000 fans. The second day of the conference continued with quantitative and qualitative data on Qatar and the GCC projects market, featuring a comprehensive forecast and assessment of the projects market in the region by MEED Insights.



arab snippets

Love is in the Air


Dubai Eye: Another “large” attraction


lebanon LEBANON, Beirut: A girl walks past Valentine’s Day gifts in the mainly Muslim Basta district of west Beirut on February 14. Valentine’s Day is increasingly popular in the region as people have taken up the custom of giving flowers, cards, chocolates and gifts to sweethearts to celebrate the occasion. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH

ubai’s ruler has approved the building of the world’s largest Ferris wheel as the centrepiece of a QR6 billion ($1.6 billion) project known as Bluewaters. The Dubai Eye will cost QR1 billion to build and will stand at 210 metres (688 feet), according to a statement on the website of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It will also include a hotel, restaurants and a family entertainment centre in a first phase set to start in April. “The destination will feature a bespoke souq encircled by a promenade that will boast alfresco dining outlets serving a wide variety of cuisines,” according to the statement. The development is expected to draw three million tourists to Dubai annually. Dubai, which already has the world’s largest mall and tallest skyscraper, is starting new projects after the 2008 property crash that wiped out 65% of property values in the city. The emirate, which racked up $113 billion of debt turning itself into a business and tourism hub, last year approved the construction of five theme parks days after saying it planned to build a new district to include a shopping mall that would break the size record currently held by the Dubai Mall. Meraas Holding, a Dubai-based real estate developer, will start building the Dubai Eye in the second quarter, according to the ruler’s website.

BAHRAIN Protests gain momentum BAHRAIN, Shakhurah: Bahraini people take part in an anti-government rally to demand political reforms on February 15, in the village of Shakhurah, west of the Bahraini capital, Manama. Demonstrations coinciding with the actual anniversary of the start of the uprising on February 14, 2011 turned deadly when a teenager was killed by police gunfire in a village near Manama.

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Qatar Today 3 1

world view

AFP PHOTO / timothy a.clary

all the single ladies


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PHOTO / franco origlia / getty images

united states, new orleans : beyonce performs during the super bowl half-time show at the superdome on february 3 in new orleans, louisiana. the baltimore ravens defeated the san francisco 49ers 34-31 in a very exciting game.

world view


AFP PHOTO / olivier morin.


Blade Runner knicked SOUTH AFRICA, Pretoria: South Africa’s Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius – nicknamed the Bladerunner – leaves the Boshkop police station on February 14 in Pretoria East, to be taken into police custody after allegedly shooting dead his model girlfriend having mistaken her for an intruder at his upscale home.



AFP PHOTO / leo ramirez.

MARCH 2013

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v i e w p oi n t

The Middle East should nurture CSR For many years the approach to achieving long-term prosperity and stability in MENA has been economic growth. Instead, governments should be pursuing sustainable development. Unlike previous policies, sustainable development is a strategy for economic progress that aims to create jobs, alleviate poverty, provide education, and carefully manage the environment. What is also different is that sustainable development requires the participation of civil society organisations, academia and private enterprises.


have a particularly important role to play in sustainable development through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Many MENA companies are increasing the scale and range of their CSR projects, as part of a global trend and an extension of longstanding cultural traditions. Unfortunately, too many companies conduct these initiatives on an ad hoc basis that limits their effectiveness. For maximum impact, companies need to align CSR projects with national development goals and coordinate with governments, academia and civil society. Such a coordinated effort is critical to tackle regional sustainable development, including the main challenge of training and educating young people for jobs. Just keeping employment at 2011 levels will require an additional 75 million jobs by 2020 – a 43% increase on the number of jobs in 2011, according to the World Economic Forum. Then there is the environmental impact of a growing population and increased economic output on a fragile ecosystem. The Arab states have over 60% of the world’s oil reserves, but just 0.5% of its renewable fresh water sources. They also have considerable problems with waste management and poor air quality in urban areas. Until recently, too many MENA companies considered CSR initiatives an optional extra and defined such work too narrowly, and too few governments fully comprehended how CSR can dovetail with national development. One sign that the tide is turning is the number of regional companies that have joined the UN Global Compact, a strategic policy initiative for businesses committed to ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The list of signatories from the MENA region has grown from just three in 2003 to 262 by the end of 2012.

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Best practices As more companies conduct CSR projects, they are establishing best practices that other companies can follow. These best practices include ensuring high-profile support and engagement of senior leaders, and practising more transparent corporate governance to encourage candid discussions and create clear guidelines for tackling CSR issues. These CSR leaders also integrate CSR with their operating model by, at the very least, coordinating the activities of their company’s businesses, functional units and partners. They also focus on a few CSR themes that leverage the company’s expertise, and they tap the credibility and expertise of civil society organisations, public-private partnerships and social business ventures. Finally, these CSR pioneers measure results to assess and refine their initiatives. In tandem with companies aligning their CSR projects with national development goals, governments need to help define these goals and create an environment in which CSR is encouraged and indeed expected from companies. Encouragingly, MENA governments have become more active in their promotion of CSR. Almost all GCC members now have corporate governance codes or guidelines in place for publicly listed companies, which are key enablers for CSR. Some Arab countries have also passed legislation on transparency and accountability targeted at state-owned enterprises. Set priorities Eventually, when the CSR environment is mature, MENA governments may not need to intervene, except to offer encouragement. For the time being, however, given the region’s substantial development needs and the undeveloped nature of CSR, governments need to play a more active role in setting priorities. At the very least, governments can define and mandate minimum standards for business performance through legislation. Governments can also facilitate CSR by naming a ministry or department to coordinate strategies and policy-making. The

vie w point

UN Global Compact signatories from MENA region

2003 3


2012 262


authorities can also offer incentives for companies to pursue CSR. Governments can provide funding and research around CSR, and can spearhead training and promotional campaigns. Alternatively, governments may actually partner with companies on CSR initiatives, bringing together the complementary skills of the public sector, the private sector and civil society to tackle complex social and environmental problems. The education sector, which in the MENA region is largely stateowned, also has an important role to play in shaping the attitudes of future business leaders. Universities and business schools can influence the mindset of tomorrow’s managers and entrepreneurs by introducing CSR-related concepts into the curriculum and they can produce research and analysis on sustainability concepts, value and metrics. Civil society organisations, for their part, can form partnerships with private companies to lend credibility to CSR initiatives, and can monitor the performance of the private sector on issues ranging from child labour to fair trade, community involvement and environmental protection. While there is an important role for government, and to an extent civil society and academia, the main burden of CSR and sustainable development falls on companies. By aligning their CSR work with national development goals, MENA companies can be good corporate citizens, and by supporting sustainable development they can contribute to the betterment of the societies in which they operate

Visit and

By Ramez Shehadi, Partner, Salim Ghazaly, Principal with Booz & Company, and Mounira Jamjoom, Senior Research Specialist at Booz & Company’s Ideation Centre

About Booz & Company: Booz & Company is a leading global management consulting firm, helping the world’s top businesses, government ministries and organisations. Our founder, Edwin Booz, defined the profession when he established the first management consulting firm in 1914. Today, with more than 3,300 people in 60 offices around the world, we bring foresight and knowledge, deep functional expertise, and a practical approach to building capabilities and delivering real impact. We work closely with our clients to create and deliver essential advantage.

MARCH 2013

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v i e w p oi n t

ASEAN Economic Community:

A role model for the GCC? The coming two years will see buoyant activity in ASEAN as the ten-member bloc prepares itself for a remarkable political and economic undertaking, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).


partly on the European Union and other farreaching trade pacts such as NAFTA or Mercosur, the AEC aims to achieve a single market and production base, to develop into a highly competitive economic region of equitable economic development, and to become fully integrated into the global economy. The AEC will encompass a region that now covers 600 million people with a combined gross domestic product of $2 trillion (QR7.3 trillion), and is expected to be inaugurated on December 1, 2015. To pay attention to this development is especially interesting for GCC countries, where ideas of an economic union have been mulled for a number of years as well. In comparison, the GCC has a combined population of just 46.5 million, but a combined GDP of $1.5 trillion (QR5.5 trillion) which comes fairly close to the AEC and would make it without doubt equally powerful on the international stage. However, a GCC economic and political union is far from being implemented. Despite GCC leaders reiterating, in December 2012 at a meeting in Bahrain, the fact that economic integration would receive great attention and that the GCC countries must strive to form an integrated economic unit as a basis for a real unity in the future, there is actually no common strategy to reach such a target for the time being. Not there yet Forming an economic union between diverse countries is not easy. ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh recently admitted in an interview with Inside Investor that the ten bloc members have only put in place about 74% of measures necessary to reach an economic union worthy of the name, less than three years ahead of its launch. As a possible role model for a GCC economic union, it makes sense to look at the challenges and obstacles the AEC is currently facing. The AEC development has been criticised for being too slow. Some observers have said that the issues that have been delayed

were important ones that could make or break the success of the integration. Some experts also commented about the lack of leadership on this issue within ASEAN, but it remains to be seen to what extent Le Luong Minh will drive the project forward. Another big issue, one that is comparable to the GCC, is lack of infrastructure and thus the need for significant investment. The development of both hard infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports, etc. and soft infrastructure such as human resources and training are being addressed, but not entirely resolved. According to the ASEAN secretary-general, an amount of no less than $60 billion (QR218.5 billion) annually is necessary to upgrade infrastructure within ASEAN to make it internationally competitive, and this only relates to hard infrastructure. For soft infrastructure, better-English-speaking countries in ASEAN such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines will have an advantage over countries like Thailand where English proficiency is poor. The banking sector in particular will need to stay ahead of the game to facilitate investors and to support their moves throughout the region. Singaporean and Malaysian banks, for instance, have invested heavily in the region and seem to be slightly ahead of other competitors in better preparing themselves for the AEC. Another issue, and this perfectly applies to the oil-rich Gulf states, is that ASEAN members still view each other as competitors. Ultimately, these distinctions should start to fade to some extent, but in the future the line between competitor and collaborator within ASEAN has to be drawn. The ASEAN members will need legally binding means to enforce compliance with the objectives of the AEC roadmaps. As for companies in the region and for investors, executives will have to adjust their strategies. Inside the AEC, managers will increasingly have to pursue sales opportunities across the region while focusing relentlessly on cost efficiencies by integrating their operations across ASEAN, managing through lean techniques but also developing effective corporate centralisation. Externally, managers in the West and in the GCC are going to have to start paying more attention to the new opportunity of the AEC. Many of them right now still seem to have eyes only for China and India


Dr Arno Maierbrugger is Editor-in-Chief of, a news portal focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics as well as trade and investment relations between ASEAN and the GCC. updates its clients on current business news and financial market data and publishes interviews with prominent business people as well as government officials. The related website is currently being developed as an online platform connecting investors with investment opportunities.

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By Dr Arno Maierbrugger

v i e w p oi n t

Lighting up the path to renewable energy Could solar power offer the most viable path to reduced hydrocarbons-dependence in Qatar? With a number of developments launched in 2012 and early 2013, early indications are that the year ahead will see solar energy lend a significant boost to the state’s renewable energy drive.


alternative and renewable energy development programme sets aside $125 billion (QR455 billion) for projects in wind, water and solar power. As part of this, in December last year the government announced plans to tender its first solar power project in the first quarter of 2013, for a plant that will eventually generate 200 megawatts of power when completed in 2020, according to the Ministry of Energy and Industry. The first stage of this includes the implementation of 5-10 megawatt pilot projects costing about QR109.5 million ($30 million). This may seem a modest beginning, but it is expected that the project will cater for around 2% of the nation’s total electricity usage upon completion, according to the ministry. Following this, in January 2013 it was announced that Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation) had started developing a 150-200 MW solar power generation unit by utilising the unused areas in its grid stations and water stations outside Doha. And hot on the heels of that, in February it was announced that plans are under way for a more widespread, concentrated solar power plant development, according to Qatar Petroleum (although specific details of the project were not available at the time of writing). According to a recent report by Qatar Petroleum, the annual rate of solar irradiation is 1,858 kWh per square metre per year; in other words, every square kilometre of land in Qatar is receiving potential solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per year. Given this, solar could play an essential role in transforming Qatar’s energy mix, while also enhancing longterm energy security as finite resources gradually decline. The question is, why are these developments happening now? It’s fair to say that while recent years have seen the issue of solar power in Qatar hotly debated, with much made of its poten-

tial to meet rising electricity demand – a trend not only in Qatar but also in the broader region – there has been little in terms of concrete action until recently. One of the reasons for this is the challenge posed by high levels of dust. Many of the prime locations for solar panel installations are blighted by dust storms. According to the Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC), this has until now hindered the expansion of Qatar’s solar energy generation, since the buildup of this dust on solar panels means they have to be constantly cleaned to ensure they can work efficiently. Taking into account the necessary scale of solar projects, which typically cover vast areas of land, this has historically impacted the prospective viability of solar power. However, it is widely expected that technological improvements in the near future will reduce the effects of this problem, making solar power viable on a large scale. Also bearing down on the government’s decision to start investing in and developing solar generation is the state’s rapidly increasing demand for electricity. Qatar’s current total power generation is 7,000 megawatts, and total consumption in 2012 was around 5,000 megawatts, according to QEWC statistics. Indeed, the gap is set to close rapidly; despite the government’s efforts to moderate usage in recent years, consumption of electricity rose by 13% in 2012, according to the Ministry of Energy and Industry, and is set to continue increasing by 10% year-on-year to 2025. This more than matches the broader regional trend; according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, electricity demand in the Middle East will rise by 3.1% per year up to 2035. But the future looks bright. If improvements in solar technology can overcome the problem of dust, then there is every reason to suggest solar has the potential to become one of the major providers of non-renewable energy in the years ahead. The government already forecasts that solar energy will cater for around a fifth of total energy usage by 2030, and the recently announced developments mark concrete steps in that direction


By Oliver Cornock The author is the Regional Editor of Oxford Business Group

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listening post

In the middle

of everywhere Why is Qatar attracting the attention of asset management companies? The Qatar Financial Center Authority (QFCA) got its seeding programme off the ground in 2012 which facilitated the regional ambitions of two asset management firms and there are more to come this year. Rory Coen spoke to Shashank Srivastava, the new CEO of the QFCA, to analyse the authority’s recent direction.


the managing director and head of BNRI, Mark Brown said that Barclays Bank had interests in oil and gas in the North Sea, Central Europe, India and Kazakhstan and further pursuits in mining in South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, as well as coal in Colombia, it was easy to appreciate why the bank chose Doha as a location to set up shop. If you’re looking for a town which is aggregately closer to these markets than Doha, then Barclays might be interested in talking to you. Brown was speaking last year at the announcement of Qatar’s QR 910 million ($250 million) investment deal with the global private equity business, which is a division of Barclay’s Bank. The new office is under the umbrella of the QFCA. The partnership is seen as an important milestone in Qatar’s strategy of developing an asset management hub and promoting the expansion of its financial services industry, as the state tries to scale up the amount of assets under management in the country to QR546 billion 910 billion ($150-$200 billion) by 2020.

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Qatar is fast becoming an attractive place to do business and the QFCA’s mandate is to make it as hospitable as possible. Its current focus is on the creation of a global business hub for three core markets - Asset Management, Reinsurance and Captive Insurance. QFC Authority’s Chief Executive Officer, Shashank Srivastava explains why the country is such a hotbed for asset management companies at the moment. “There are a number of trends playing out,” says Srivastava. “One is that the asset management firms needs to be closer to their clients. After the financial crisis, they need to be able to demonstrate that they can do a better job, not only performing their task, but also in risk management. They need to show their client that they have robust systems in place, that they have a longterm understanding of their client’s investment needs, and this can only really be done on the ground. “Another driver is that the investors are also demanding this. They want them nearby to monitor and supervise them properly. They want to be able to communicate their needs,” he added. The third reason is the geographical element. Qatar is right in the foyer of the

world’s hottest markets right now. Historically, the majority of the regional wealth had been invested in the west, but the high yields simply aren’t there anymore. You get highquality purchases and cheap valuations, but there’s no growth there. So whether you are hunting for yield or growth, Srivastava maintains that you need to look outside these traditional western marketplaces and into Asia or the emerging markets for high yields and growth. “Away from investments and relationship building,” Srivastava continues, “we now have the correct legal regulatory tax environment for asset management companies to actually establish themselves on the ground. So you might have all these global trends playing out, but if the environment is not there for them to establish themselves, then what can they do? Tax wise, it’s a great location for asset management firms to operate in as the QFC environment only taxes locally-sourced profits, so internationallysourced profits are not taxed.” Reinsurance The QFCA is bullish about the outlook for reinsurance in Qatar and the region in general. So much so that it’s the cornerstone of

listening post

Low insurance premium penetration rates, coupled with high cession rates to international reinsurers, suggest the potential of the industry to grow significantly over the next few years.

their core strategy. Low insurance premium penetration rates, coupled with high cession rates to international reinsurers, suggest the potential of the industry to grow significantly over the next few years. In 2011, half of the insurance that was written was reinsured abroad, with the global average being 12%; while the insurance penetration rate - the percentage of total insurance premiums in comparison to gross domestic product - was at about 1% in 2011, while the global average was almost 7%. Shashank says: “In general, reinsurance underpins economic growth because it helps primary insurance companies to prosper and provides risk protection to households and firms alike. As a consequence, reinsurance usually grows in line with the underlying primary markets. “For Qatar we expect a rapid expansion of the primary markets due to strong growth in commercial lines on the back of unabated momentum in infrastructure and construction investments. In addition, the industry is to benefit from continued growth in personal lines such as motor, homeowners, health and life. We are witnessing an increasing interest from reinsurers who are considering a local presence in the Gulf region. As of now Q-Re, SEIB and Chedid Capital Holding are reinsurers licensed in Qatar and we are confident to see more establishments in the not too distant future as many leading primary insurers such as AXA and Zurich as well as brokers like Aon and Marsh have already set up a presence in this country. “Cession rates are comparatively high in Qatar for two simple reasons: firstly, the country boasts a number of huge and highly complex insurable risks, in construction and oil & gas in particular. The global reinsurance markets therefore offer protection to the local insurance industry by reinsuring these large risks abroad. Furthermore, even from a risk management perspective, the local insurance industry

MARCH 2013

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Interest in captive insurance is increasing because it is an efficient means to dealing with our environment of double-digit economic growth rates in combination with a higher complexity in business and associated risks.

seeks to diversify and protect its balance sheet by taking advantage of the global reinsurance markets. Nevertheless, partly as a reflection of the growing maturity of the GCC insurance markets, cession rates show a declining trend. This is primarily due to growth in compulsory personal lines, which have lower cession rates. In addition, lower cession rates reflect improving risk management capabilities. Shashank intimated that changes in insurance penetration are reflective of the pace of growth of insurance relative to GDP growth: an increasing insurance penetration reflects the fact that the insurance sector growth has outpaced GDP growth. “Although insurance premiums have expanded at double-digit rates in Qatar,” he said, “GDP grew even more rapidly over the past few years due to the increased LNG capacity that was brought online. Therefore, in 2011 Qatar’s insurance penetration stood at 0.7%, a decline from 1.0% in 2009. But it is forecasted that total premiums will more than double to QR7.6 billion ($2.1 billion) by 2016. So, the industry is set to grow spectacularly, but whether this translates into an increasing share in GDP remains to be seen.” Captives The QFCA’s third strategic focus is on captives. The development of the Middle East as a centre for captives has been a talking point for some time now, what with changing attitudes to risk management and the moderation of the recent global economic crisis. In 2011, three-quarters of the Fortune 500 had captive insurance companies, while the GCC region had only ten. Companies are now looking at alternate ways to transfer their risk onto the markets, seeing it not as a liability, but as an opportunity. “The GCC-based corporations consider captives as viable solutions for their insurance requirements and an integral part of their overall risk strategy,” says Srivastava. “In July 2011, the QFC Regulatory Authority

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issued new regulatory frameworks applying to captive insurers, captive managers and insurance intermediaries, designed to support the development of Qatar as a regional centre for captive insurance. “Interest in captive insurance is increasing because it is an efficient means to dealing with our environment of double-digit economic growth rates in combination with a higher complexity in business and associated risks. Infrastructure spending is increasing, previously state-owned assets are being privatised and regulatory requirements on transparency and disclosure are rising. Finally, company managers and directors are becoming more sophisticated. These factors augur well for the demand for captive solutions in Qatar. Srivastava concedes that it would take some time for the world to familiarise itself with this new environment. “For instance, some regional companies have already reached a scale where it would make sense for them to create their own captives. However, there would be an opposing force to that in the sense that the whole insurance industry has being going through a soft cycle recently, which leads to less risk capacity. So in that scenario, it’s probably better to pass that risk on to the industry rather than do captives themselves. They should wait for the right time in the economic cycle, which isn’t at this point in time,” he says. Product offerings Many of the global insurance investment products are currently available in Qatar, they just lack the maturity needed to be properly quantified.. How further along the line is Qatar regarding the range of products that can be offered here? If there isn’t the demand for them, can they ever mature here? “Difficulties in quantifying loss trends, for example, make it harder to price certain products adequately,” says Srivastava. “This is a recurrent phenomenon when indus-

tries emerge or innovations are launched, because sometimes we still lack meaningful time series as products have just sprung into life. As the industry grows, more reliable data become available and projecting losses and pricing products should be less of a challenge. “In addition, issues on the product development and distribution side, such as access to consumers, product innovation and risk segmentation – closely matching products to the risks of the potential buyers – arguably hold the industry’s growth back. However, these are common features of emerging insurance markets across the globe. “Most standard products in personal and commercial lines are available here. In general, insurance penetration and density (i.e. insurance spend per capita) is still held back. In personal lines, there are also some religious and cultural reservations which inhibit the growth of conventional life insurance, an issue which the industry tries to tackle through Sharia-compliant ‘Family Takaful’ products. From an investor’s perspective there is still a lack of suitable longterm financial assets, especially high-quality bonds which insurers could use to cover their long-term liabilities,” he adds. The product offerings, of course, depend on the skill and technical ability of the staff here. Is attracting talent a significant problem here? “Based on the GCC Insurance and Reinsurance Barometers, which we issue in alternation, twice a year,” says Srivastava, “the insurance executives participating in the survey pointed out that locally available technical skills are inadequate. This results in an extreme reliance on expatriate staff. These deficiencies extend to all major areas of underwriting, claims management, risk management and general management. However, interestingly enough, many respondents believe that insurers themselves can do a lot more to nurture local talent and invest in the development of management skills”

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The sky is the limit

Middle East Aviation Boom:

The sky is the limit

M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

The air transport sector in the Middle East is undergoing a rapid transformation as passenger traffic begins to surge in the region, primarily because of the swift expansion of airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Meanwhile, the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha airports have launched massive expansion projects to match future traffic forecasts. They will have a combined capacity of 340 million passengers a year by 2020. Passenger traffic at the three hubs continues to grow by leaps and bounds, regardless of regional disruptions that affected traffic in the Middle East last year. Much of this is testament to the strength of their home carriers, the development policies pursued at each of the airports and local governments’ visions to transform their cities into major aviation centres. Qatar Today puts the spotlight on Hamad International Airport, the latest entrant to the competition, to find out how it will affect the other hubs in the region. By Sindhu Nair


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The sky is the limit

Check-in counters at the Passenger Terminal

HIA: A new era in

passenger travel The silence as we walk into the Passenger Terminal Complex is interrupted only by the gentle echo of a water body. The fact that the huge premises have still not opened their doors and begun their anticipated undertaking contributes to the almost eerie peace. But I presume it has more to do with the architecture of the large space than with the absence of activity. Inside the humongous passenger terminal of the Hamad International Airport (HIA) for an exclusive premiere of the facilities before it opens its doors next month to 12 airlines, I feel I am part of a landmark moment – a moment that is sure to rewrite the history of air transport in Qatar. Not everyone might agree with this, given the

umpteen delays and bad press that the construction of the airport has gone through before it finally raises its curtains. The architects of HIA, though, have kept their promise of a space that dazzles and of a mission that goes well beyond that of an ordinary airport. This fact is corroborated by Bernardo Gogna, Director, New Doha International Airport Steering Committee and an architect who is reluctant to be in focus but desires that the edifice itself takes the limelight. “The sense of space, with the sunlight streaming in through the beautiful skylights, the signage that is functional without being conspicuous, technology that is the best available – all this

M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

Landmark Features: HIA stretches across

29 square kilometres

and includes multi-concourse Terminal 1 (opening next month), the Emiri terminal, a mosque, a second passenger terminal (future expansion), vehicle rental and car facilities, cargo, a maintenance hangar and catering facilities.

brings the passenger experience far beyond what constitutes an airport,” he says. Gogna goes a step further and calls the HIA a luxurious resort, “with lounges and services that will make it seem like one,” he says. Artfully designed There is one aspect of the airport that truly classifies it a notch above other airports in the world. “There is no airport, not that I know of, which has a museum within its premises. And HIA will have a museum space with art that will engage passengers and remain with them forever,” he says. “The retail space is also artfully designed. But the fact that there is a delicate balance between all these facilities without being overly ambitious on any one of these features is what makes the HIA a benchmark in airport design,” says Gogna. Reflecting on the concept of the design, Gogna says: “The inspiration for the airport was from the fact that we were situated on the edge of the water body. The notion of the water concept begins from this and is carried forward in the wave-like structure of the roofs of the terminals. The wave is especially prominent on the departure terminals, replicating the notion of departure, of the movement of people from one destination to another, something that is a constant in an airport. The movement of the roof also follows with the movement of the passenger. There is a transition of the functionalities, and then there is the plaza where all the passengers come to.” From destination passengers to transit passengers (who constitute 70% of the total movement), everyone moves through a

The Emiri Terminal

huge space called the plaza. It is utilised as a medium to portray the social fabric and cultural happenings of the country. “This is not advertising, which is typical of the Times Square model. This is more like a methodology to let the world know what is happening in Qatar,” says Gogna. This is one of the reasons why the project is so important, he explains, “because the airport becomes much more than what it typically should be – it serves as a highly-evolved public facility that puts art, architecture and culture together.” The museum concept, which was also introduced in airports for the first time in HIA, “is not for decoration,” insists Gogna, “it is integration.”

Hong Kong Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport are believed to be the best airport designs in the world. And while the HIA has imbibed features from the best designs, it has also tried to improve on them, according to Gogna. In the end, the deciding factor for any architectural project of this scale is the client, and how many of the ideas get translated into breathtaking architecture. “A project is only as good as the client,” says Gogna, “The Steering Committee of the project was adamant on creating a masterpiece. The project was a challenge for us as the pressure and complexity of the requirement was high, but on the other hand the result was the building. The continuous

(cont on pg. 50)


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The sky is the limit

“From one plane a month to hundreds of aircraft movements” The history of air transport in qatar goes back to the 1950s when the oil companies needed transportation for their personnel and equipment. One man who has seen it all – the humongous growth of the sector from one plane using the facilities per month to a hub with thousands of movement – is the Chairman of Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), HE Abdul Aziz Al-NOAimi. In an exclusive interview with Qatar Today , he takes a trip down memory lane commenting on the sustainable path to be adopted by aviation hubs. The combination of a well-oiled and efficient national carrier and a technologically advanced facility gives Qatar the edge, says HE Al-Noaimi. “Without a national carrier the facilities would cater for foreign airlines, which would reduce profit within the country. Without the facilities within the country the airline would have to outsource facilities,” he says. It has been a huge journey for the country, for a facility that in the 1950s was used for one plane monthly to be catering for 28 million passengers per year. For someone who has witnessed this growth, share with us your memories. The need for the air transport sector appeared in the 1950s, when oil companies required transportation for their personnel and equipment. The first runway was established in the western part of the country, followed by two others, one south of Umm Said and another east of Doha, for commercial air transportation, which used to operate one plane per month. HE Abdul Aziz Al-NOAimi Over the years, as economic and social Chairman of Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) development in the region progressed, Qatar wisely invested in its own aviation and cargo services and has today estab- international standards of aviation safety benefit and for the wellbeing of the people. The significance of seeing one plane per lished a new aviation hub – the Hamad and security. The remarkable vision of HH Sheikh month was indeed a sight to remember International Airport (HIA) – that will not only support the incredible growth Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the and an occasion! The irony now is seeing of our national carrier, Qatar Airways, Qatar, in planning, suggesting, guiding and hundreds of aircraft movements daily, and but will also meet the increasing pas- watching all projects closely has motivat- taking that to be the norm and business as senger traffic without compromising on ed the country to lead and develop for its usual.

Mosque The water-droplet-inspired structure of the mosque has a glass shell with a gently domed roof, and can accommodate 500 worshippers.

35 m


M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

What will be the challenges for the QCAA with the new airport launch? The main challenges will be to manage a facility of that size efficiently and to ensure the integration of commercial, corporate, and other organisations that operate in the airport. Since HIA is equipped with stateof-the-art technology, it needs constant vigilance against hackers and malfunctioning; other elements include updating software and annual maintenance of all equipment. Another challenge will be implementing the necessary training system for all departments to communicate, interact and relay messages and work as a team. What makes Qatar the perfect aviation hub in the region? Qatar’s strategic location in the Middle East region makes it a natural geographic link between the global East and West. As a result it is emerging as an attractive location for many political, economic and intellectual groups and is also the venue for political forums, international conferences, world-class conventions, and cultural as well as international festivals. The period of great expansion and accelerated growth that Qatar is undergoing contributes to the country becoming a focal point for culture, knowledge and business for the 21st century. In addition, our national carrier Qatar Airways travels to over 100 destinations, which opens up more opportunities and increases the number of passengers passing through Doha. The HIA is fully geared to be an aviation hub that will be able to cater for 50 million passengers per year (at full capacity), with both runways allowing for a traffic capacity of 100 aircraft movements per hour.

Does it matter that there are other hubs in close proximity? How does it affect competition? The GCC region has recorded investment to the tune of QR328 billion ($90 billion) in the setting up, refurbishment and expansion of airport infrastructure. Every country in the region is in the process of expanding its air, road and sea transport and cargo handling facilities, as demand grows for goods and services from across the world. According to this fact, we will witness a number of world-class airports competing to provide the highest level of services related to the aviation industry, retail business, travelling standards and cargo facilities. Will the QCAA look at encouraging more private entities within the Airport? The QCAA certainly looks at encouraging more private entities within the airport, according to the framework and standards set by the Council of Ministers. The Middle East cargo market has remained relatively robust, growing 8.2% during 2011 and more than 15% in 2012. How do you think having the new facilities will help improve this market? Across the Middle East region there is an increase in investment in various infrastructure projects. The Emir’s National Vision 2030 has outlined the ambitious plans for Qatar. In addition, there is a growing focus on manufacturing in the region. These developments have a significant impact on the growth of the cargo market. Qatar has carefully studied this growth and planned for the cargo facilities at the new airport accordingly. The opening capacity of the Cargo Terminal is 1.4 million metric tonnes per year, with full capacity set to increase to 2.5 million metric tonnes.

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), the operator of Abu Dhabi’s five airports, revealed that Abu Dhabi Duty Free retail revenue reached AED809.5 million in 2012, an increase of 24% over 2011. How will Doha compete with this? We very much admire the UAE’s unique and long experience in the domain of developing duty free retail. The equation is governed by the percentage of passengers who use airports’ duty free markets and the way it is presented and promoted. The experience of Qatar in this field has come a long way and it is growing rapidly. When the aviation sector is going through a lean phase globally, how is it that all the Middle East airlines post positive results. What is the reasoning and do you think this is a sustainable growth for all the hubs? The growth rate in the Middle East has been affected to a large extent by the world crisis, but it did not stop. Positive or negative growth is influenced by both the situation of world markets as well as the political stability of each country. I think that the growth rate will match the increased needs of these markets. There has been an allegation by a private entity that operates within the Doha International Terminal that its growth is being hampered by the Authority. How do you respond to that allegation? The QCAA is responsible for regulating aviation operations and managing the aviation hubs in the State of Qatar has the right and the full authority to take the appropriate action in case any airline company operating within the Doha International Airport breaks rules and regulations.

Passenger Terminal Complex

600,000 sq m 41

3 29 ha


central utility plants

contact gates


3,450 6,900 sq mt

car parking SPACES

transportation facility

100 88

limousine staging CAPACITY

passenger loading bridges


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The sky is the limit


There will be extra focus on an efficient street and public transport network that will serve to promote energy efficiency and mitigate excessive travel times and distances. This comes within the Airport City that is part of the master plan of the HIA and will be completed in the next phase. The transport hub created by the Terminal 2 Complex will attract travellers, and the development area will be commercially attractive. Rail, metro, bus and extensive road network linking to the Business District will create an interface between this area of HIA Airport City and the centre of Doha. The three functional zones of the terminal are the rail concourse and business centre; Terminal two; and the Terminal 2 Plaza, which connects the air and rail functions of the development. The terminal will be an airsidelandside link and an area where local and international business will converge. In the levels beneath the air terminal, the Metro (Red Line) and LDR rail links stations provide links for passengers to greater Doha and future rail services to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.

Interior view of the Passenger Terminal

Art Programme

28 14

sites within and around the terminal

Concourses A & B


gates with Hold Rooms


Seats per Hold Room

regional and internationally acclaimed artists (cont from pg. 47)

Departures Hall

25,000 sq m 24m 150 14 16

column-free space

high ceiling

check-in stations

first class check-in booths

Business class check-in desks

interface between the Steering Committee and the project team made sure that the features and architecture remained very competitive in comparison with the best.” Airport City Another revolutionary project is the HIA Airport City, a project spanning 10sq km, where 200,000 people will work and live. According to Rem Koolhaas, the concept architect of the city, it is “perhaps the first serious effort anywhere in the world to interface between an international airport and the city it serves. Downtown Doha will be within five kilometres of the airport, linked to the new urban fabric of Airport City and its new transport connections.” The master plan has been conceived as a series of four “circular districts”, connected by what is called a “Green Spine” running parallel to HIA’s second runway. HIA Airport City is intended to provide infrastructure to maximise the commercial functionality of the growing airport. “The typology of Airport City is in

response to the growth of air travel, requiring the expansion of the existing airport and its encroaching into the fabric of the city. The city is thus targeted for optimised development of the transport hub of an airport and its surrounding airside and landside supporting functions,” says Gogna. Because the city is close to the airport, HIA Airport City makes a unique case and an opportunity to create a buffer zone of development. It is planned to serve the best interests of both the airport and airside functions and the city, he explains. “The development connects, but also separates, the city from the airport,” he says. HIA Airport City will have established zones: the business district, the aviation campus, the logistics district and, meeting a newly-constructed marina, a residential district. The 30-year master plan of the HIA project that substantial parts of the business district and all of the aviation campus will be developed within 10 years.

M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

“We don’t rely on any particular market” As the airport operator and main airline user of HIA, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al-Baker always dreams big. Qatar Airways (QA) is also known as the “aggressive player in the aviation sector”, expanding destinations and buying new aeroplanes. Steering this growth is Al-Baker, who is said to have an “eye for detail” and in his own words, “is never complacent”. He speaks exclusively to Qatar Today on the aviation sector and the new member in the Qatar Airways family, the Hamad International Airport.


seems like the aggressive airline is continuing to increase its destinations as Al-Baker says: “By the end of 2015, we expect to be flying a fleet of 170 aircraft to 170 destinations worldwide. This compares with the current fleet of 119 aircraft (as of end of February 2013) and 125 global destinations. “The first phase of the QR56.4 billion ($15.5 billion) airport project involves a select few international passenger airlines becoming the launch carriers of the new facility. The new facility is a global showpiece, which will accommodate 28 million passengers annually when it opens this year, increasing to 50 million passengers beyond 2015. One can expect a truly worldclass experience at the newest aviation hub, reiterating QA’s commitment to creating a superior travel experience,” he says. The aviation sector is a very volatile sector. It is affected by fuel prices, the global economy and by events such as natural calamities and disease outbreaks. How true is this for QA? It’s been just over 16 years since QA relaunched and you can imagine that there have definitely been some ups and downs along the way. What is crucial is to have a solid business model in place and a clear vision not to lose sight of our strategic objectives, set out in 1997 at the time of our relaunch. While other airlines were shrinking their operations, cutting capacity, reducing staffing levels and parking aircraft, QA actually expanded relentlessly, growing its route map, fleet size and staff numbers. QA currently flies a modern fleet of 119 aircraft to 125 key business and leisure destinations

Akbar Al-Baker CEO, Qatar Airways

across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas with the aggressive expansion continuing into 2013. Our business model is such that we don’t rely on any particular market. We have a diverse market mix and diverse network, and we are able to easily shift capacity around according to market needs in good or bad times. With the aviation sector globally just pulling through, how have Middle East carriers managed to keep their heads above water? Is it only from government support or is the region proving itself above the volatile conditions that affect airlines as such?

The Middle East, despite the global economic slowdown, has proven to be one of the fastest-growing and robust aviation markets in the world. I believe that the Middle East will continue to outperform the rest of the world in the levels of service offered. We cater for such a multicultural passenger mix. By following the hub-andspoke operation model we carry passengers from around the world with a value-formoney offering and excellent in-flight experience. Our fleet is modern and our service is impeccable, which is why we garner awards, exceeding customers’ expectations. Today’s customers want value-for-money and quality of service. We offer both, unlike many airlines around the world.


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The sky is the limit

The Cargo Terminal at the Hamad International Airport

In a recent study by the Germany-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre, Finnair was rated the “safest airline”, while China Air was 60th out of the 60 surveyed. QA was mid-table with Emirates and Etihad in the top 10. What makes an airline especially safe to travel with? Safety is always a high priority for us. The airline made history in 2003 when it became the first airline in the world to pass IATA’s new, stringent IOSA safety audit with 100% compliance – and we have continued to pass the audit with full compliance ever since. Audits are carried out regularly, and we at QA take great pride in ensuring we have 100% compliance with safety and security procedures. What is Qatar Airways’ stand on Boeing 787, given the fact that you have ordered 55 of them? Will you be going ahead with the order? Safety remains the number one priority for QA. We ensure all our aircraft meet the most stringent safety standards and this

will not be compromised in any way. We are actively working with Boeing and the regulators to restore full customer confidence in the 787. Qatar Airways will resume 787 operations when we are clear that the aircraft meets the full requirements of the airworthiness directive. So we are not flying the aircraft until such time as this is achieved. The Dreamliner is a wonderful state-ofthe-art aircraft, with a revolutionary design and environmental credentials, and we are confident that once the issues are resolved we will continue to operate the aircraft. With three hubs in close proximity, what will make customers favour QA and HIA over the others? Do you believe in following the numbers game? We do not believe in the numbers game, but truly strive to offer the best levels of worldclass service to our customers. As the airport operator and main airline user of HIA, Qatar Airways will ensure that the airport experience surpasses expectations in operational excellence and customer experience, and strive to be the best aviation hub in the world. This is a world-class, iconic

airport that is set to open, creating great new benchmarks in design, structure and experience. We look forward to welcoming the world through this wonderful new gateway. Today, the airline has orders for over 250 aircraft worth more than QR182 billion ($50 billion). What are its procurement plans for the next couple of years? We continue to grow with clear strategic objectives. Right now, we are looking forward to moving operations to a brand new airport, and we look forward to taking delivery of a brand new fleet of aircraft that includes the Airbus A380 superjumbo from next year, and developing our route and aircraft numbers even more. You have stated that only 18% of your customers are local. Does that mean they will be at a disadvantage? Qatar Airways and most airlines from the Middle East follow the hub-and-spoke business model for their route networks. With a relatively small population base in our

M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

respective markets, it is essential as part of our business model to fly passengers from around the world to destinations around the world using Doha as a key hub. Our central geographic position gives us significant advantage as we are located at the crossroads of East and West. Our operations are designed to provide convenient connections for travellers transiting through to onward destinations. This does not mean that our local customers are at a disadvantage. Like all our passengers worldwide, the local population is offered the award-winning world-class service and in-flight experience that we are known for, taking them to over 120 destinations spreading across six continents. Is it true that the service is disparate across sectors at QA ? This is not true. As a testimony to our successful operations, in a short span of just 16 years, QA remains one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world. Due to the continued support of our passengers and with the hard work and commitment of our employees, we have been awarded, for two consecutive years, World’s Best Airline at the annual Skytrax awards. This is an incredible achievement for a young airline in today’s highly competitive global aviation industry. We take great pride in our service, our high standards, our employees and the people we serve – our passengers. What would your prime aim be as the operator of HIA? Comfort, class or over-the-top-luxury? Our primary aim is to make HIA the best airport in the world. This can only be done through the dedication and commitment of airport users, be they airlines or employees, to making the passenger experience as comfortable and hassle-free as possible. We will continue to drive high operational standards, high quality and great efficiency in the running of the airport and hope to reaffirm Doha’s position as a premium global hub with the opening of Hamad International Airport this year. There will be an incredible number of great features within the airport – luxury lounges, a monorail transport system within the terminal complex, and fine finishes. Doha International Airport claimed to have the strongest traffic in 2011, but this year Dubai International has be-

Our primary aim is to make HIA the best airport in the World. This can only be done through the dedication and commitment of airport users, be they airlines or employees, to making the passenger experience as comfortable and hassle-free as possible.

come the third-busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger numbers, according to the airport’s figures. How do you fare against the competition? From 17 million passengers in 2011, Doha International Airport handled approximately 20 million passengers in 2012. In 2013, we are estimating the total number of passengers to exceed 24 million. With the dramatic growth of QA, Doha International Airport is becoming too small to handle the surge in air travel to and from Qatar. In line with the mission of QA to be the world’s best, our newest family member, HIA, is positioned as an international icon that promises to make waves on the global stage through its sheer size, masterpiece design and innovative features. The preparations are well under way for the April 1 opening. How will you build the retail arm of the HIA, what will be the focus from here on? HIA will have more than 40,000 square metres of retail facilities and passenger lounges. QA’s subsidiary Qatar Duty Free will be the operator of the retail facilities, featuring exclusive branded boutiques and products to cater for passengers from all walks of life. It promises to be an unrivalled airport shopping experience. How well is Qatar Executive faring? There have been allegations from Rizon Jet that QCAA is interfering in its regular business, making it difficult for the company to operate its services. What is your reaction to that?

It is not our business to comment on competitors. We operate in a competitive business aviation environment with impressive players across the region. Qatar Executive truly demonstrates that it is a cut above the rest with its superior in-flight experience offering. As a person who has been instrumental in steering QA to its heights, what are your dreams about the company? What were your biggest challenges? I am never complacent and do not rest on my laurels. I firmly believe in further growing our international network and continuing to provide our passengers with the best levels of service and the best available inflight product that they so deserve. QA is known for two key features: dynamic growth and a constant focus on topquality service, where the customer is at the heart of everything we do. Listening to what the customer wants and delivering it is our top priority through good times and also through challenging phases. We have faced challenges in the form of rising fuel costs and political unrest in parts of the Middle East. But we remain focused on doing our job and rising to the challenges. Another big challenge we have been facing is that the current Doha International Airport is running at full capacity, unable to withstand the airline’s rapid growth. This challenge is shortly going to be overcome with the opening of HIA this year. Do you ever relax, let your guard down? And what is the one piece of advice that you would give young Qataris looking to move ahead in their careers? I never let my guard down. I am a focused individual. I cannot stress enough the importance that education plays in our lives, which helps shape our future. Qatari youth should take pride in our beloved nation, which is why so much resource and faith is being put into the youth of today as the leaders of tomorrow by many Qatari organisations, including QA. My advice is to make informed decisions about the type of career you want to pursue. At QA we have a career path that is second to none, with a record number of 150 places on offer for Qatari graduates and undergraduates in various capacities at the national airline from the beginning of the 2013 academic year.


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The sky is the limit

Dubai Airports

Always a step ahead Cynics aren’t impressed BY Dubai announcing projects that WILL either be the world’s tallest or longest or one that is the “first ever built”, but the fact is that with tourists pouring into the country, the Dubai model does seem to be successful. Dubai Airport has moved ahead of Hong Kong Airport TO becomE the third-busiest airport in the world, according to AirportS Council International figures in 2012.


keep up with the flow of tourists, Dubai Airports announced last year that HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has endorsed its QR28.4 billion ($7.8 billion) airport and airspace expansion programme, which will boost capacity at Dubai International from 60 million to 90 million passengers per year by 2018. The plan is designed to deliver aviation infrastructure that will support the continuation of the sector’s impressive growth, facilitate Dubai’s economic expansion and generate 22% of total employment and 32% of the emirate’s GDP by 2020. It is responding to a ten-year traffic forecast for Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC) that projects that international passenger and cargo traffic will increase at an average annual rate of 7.2% and 6.7% respectively. Anita Mehra, Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications for Dubai Airports, tells us how Dubai flies so high. How many passengers went through Dubai Airport in 2012? How much growth is this against previous years? What percentage of these passengers were in transit? In 2012, Dubai International handled a total of 57.68 million passengers, an increase of 13.2% from 50.97 million in 2011. Transit passengers constituted 57% of the total traffic. How many flights go in and out of Dubai airport each week? How much growth is this against previous years? What

Anita Mehra Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Dubai Airports

percentage of these are with Emirates? Total aircraft movements for 2012 reached 344,245 (an average of approximately 6,600 movements per week), up 5.5% from the 326,318 movements recorded in 2011. Emirates is the single largest contributor to activity at Dubai International and accounts for approximately 60% of total passenger traffic. Dubai International Airport is the third busiest airport in the world. What has propelled the airport to such a position? How important is your geographical location, and what makes Dubai’s airports stand out against others? Dubai’s geo-centric location is a major ad-

vantage, and coupled with our aviation model – which is a direct result of the grand vision of the political leadership and revolves around a liberal regulatory climate – the key factors in our growth story are a tax-free business environment, a customercentric focus that provides value for money, and close coordination and collaboration within the sector. Thanks to Dubai’s “open skies” policy the airport is connected to 260 destinations across six continents, through more than 140 airlines, and continues to attract more carriers. The combination of a successful tourism industry, Dubai’s proximity to the emerging economies of the East, and the emirate’s established role as a trading hub linking economies in the Far East, Europe, Africa and North America will drive growth and further consolidate Dubai’s status as a global centre for trade, tourism and commerce. The success of Dubai’s flagship carrier, Emirates, and the meteoric rise of our low-cost carrier, Fly Dubai, will also remain a major factor in our future growth story. Dubai’s progressive approach to aviation is the key difference. The success is attributed to a model that is consensus-based, highly competitive and consumer-centric. This generates significant economic benefits for Dubai and the countries it connects. How do you market the airport, with Doha’s Hamad International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport in close proximity? We position Dubai International as a hub that provides top airport infrastructure, the highest connectivity for international passengers, a competitive tax-free environment, a 50-year track record of high traffic growth and a promising future in terms of the projected growth of the sector.

M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

Gulf Air

Flight plans While its two neighbouring national carriers are reaping gold, Bahrain’s airlines are struggling. Bahrain Air – the privately-owned low-cost carrier – has shut down citing political unrest in the island kingdom to be the reason.


Air, the 63-year-old former flag carrier of Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman, has declined steadily since three of its member states broke away to establish independent carriers. Gulf Air has faced challenges in recent times, in common with other global carriers, but it says that “combinations of unprecedented regional and economic factors have made business increasingly difficult. “Given this, Gulf Air, its shareholder Mumtalakat and the government, both through the cabinet and parliament, are all working towards a common goal - to secure Gulf Air’s long-term sustainability and to actively address the airline’s loss-making position.” Just before we went to print, Gulf Air sent another statement regarding the belttightening measures adopted which stated: “Despite a difficult operating environment, restructuring measures have started yielding results and the strategy remains on track to achieve overall cost savings of 24% by the end of 2013. In January 2013, through the implementation of prudent cost saving measures and an aggressive efficiency drive, the airline reduced its overall losses by over 34% compared with January 2012, posted a 9.6% increase in passenger revenue against its budgeted revenue and, increased its yields by over 8%.” The airline also cut its expenditure significantly through reductions in aircraft lease fees, flight-related charges and staff expenses and the closure of four loss-making routes. Based on current progress and the estimated forecasts, the restructuring plan is on track to achieve its cost-savings target by the end of 2013. Indications are also strong that the revenue per available seat kilometre (RSK) will achieve the targeted 9% in-

Maher Salman AlMusallam Acting CEO, Gulf Air

crease in 2013 through the establishment of robust performance frameworks designed to deliver greater efficiencies. When asked about the strategic steps taken by Gulf Air to ensure it is competing with the larger airlines in the region, Maher Salman AlMusallam, Acting CEO, Gulf Air says, “Gulf Air’s business model is different from that of the larger regional carriers. As part of the current Gulf Air restructuring process, the airline is optimising its fleet and network by strengthening its core services in the MENA markets and concentrating on high-demand and high-yield point-to-point routes to connect Bahraini businesses with regional markets.” As such, the airline operates one of the largest networks in the Middle East and operates flights to regional capitals including Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Khartoum and Sana’a. It also operates multiple daily flights to its entire GCC network including Kuwait, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, Jeddah, Riyadh, Medina and Dammam. “The airline is focused on four key areas – fleet, network, product and cost – to offer

passengers more value for money, a network reflecting customer demand as well as new and improved products. In addition, the airline is continuing to strengthen its Middle East network, retaining Gulf Air’s position as the largest regional network carrier while connecting key global markets with Bahrain,” he says. Gulf Air’s restructuring strategy is aimed at taking the airline on a path towards sustainability. The main challenge for the airlines in the next five years, according to Maher Salman AlMusallam, is fuel prices, which continue to be a major challenge for the entire aviation industry. “Gulf Air, like other airlines, is impacted by the global economy in addition to the growing competition both regionally and globally,” he says. “The optimised fleet and network will see Gulf Air operating a mix of wide, and narrow body aircraft with one of the youngest fleets in the region (a little more than four years) offering best-in-class products and services,” he says.


Cover story

The sky is the limit

Flying Digital In a highly competitive market, airlines are increasingly embracing technology as A means to develop their brand and keep up with evolving consumer expectations. By Damian Radcliffe


aviation industry is a notoriously tough business. Capital outlay, repairs, taxes, high fuel costs, regulations and competition – all contribute to creating an expensive and challenging environment in which to operate. As a result, history is filled with high-profile examples, from Pan Am to Laker Airways, of carriers who ultimately vanished from our departure boards. Over the years, strategies to redress the challenging economics of our skies have included code-sharing, alliances and full-on mergers, such as the 2011 union between Spanish national carrier Iberia and British Airways. Other solutions have been more creative. American Airlines famously once realised it could save QR218,400 a year by removing the olive from the salads they served in First Class. As Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher once quipped: “If the Wright Brothers were alive today, Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs.” In the digital age these pre-existing financial challenges are heightened by increased consumer literacy. Many of us take for granted online tools like price comparison websites or forums where we can discuss and compare seat pitches, inflight entertainment systems and food options. Yet a decade ago, these (now mainstream) information outlets either didn’t exist or were still in their infancy. The explosion of social networks and smartphones in the last four to five years has added a further information layer. The net effect is that the average airline customer is now better informed, and better able to share their views and experiences, than at any time since Kitty Hawk took to the air in 1903. Responding to this new age of connectiv-

examples of local engagement via the two biggest social networks, as of February 19, 2013

Twitter followers

Facebook Likes

Qatar Airways

63,288. Updates: 8,466 @qatarairways



51, 142. Updates: 402 @Flying_Emirates



15,305. Updates 4,215 @EtihadAirways


Gulf Air

14,976. Updates: 3,095 @GulfAir


Fly Dubai

1,351. Updates: 0 (Site “not active”) @flydubai


Mainstream pre-flight consumer tools we now take for granted Booking online both direct with the airline or through third parties like Expedia Price comparison tools like Kayak or Skyscanner Choosing the best seat, or avoiding the worst ones, via SeatGuru Forums like FlyerTalk dedicated to deals, frequent flyer schemes and other tips

ity is a challenge, not just for airlines but for any customer-facing service organisation. In 2010 RightNow, a cloud-based customer service provider, commissioned a study to investigate how social networks were changing consumer expectations. Its report showed that consumers increasingly expect interaction via social channels and that the social web is often their first port of call in the event of a problem.

However, the study also found that these consumer expectations frequently outstripped businesses’ willingness, or ability, to engage with these emerging channels. As a result, companies increasingly risked losing control of the conversation. Clearly, this remains a risk. But writing in Airline Passenger Experience in late 2011, Shashank Nigam noted that whilst “the social era may be frightening for an industry that has traditionally held firm control over marketing and operations, but it has also given airlines the unique opportunity to understand what drives customer actions better than ever before”. Subsequently, after spending much of the past decade on the digital back foot, many airlines are “going social” – harnessing networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as putting out e-mail newsletters to drive customer loyalty, engage with new consumers, and garner feedback from service users. The most obvious example of this sort of digital activity has been the provision of highly reactive customer support and timesensitive social-media-only deals. But airlines are increasingly being creative too.

M a r c h 2 0 1 3 | Qatar Today

Air New Zealand’s quirky in-flight safety video, #richroll, has had nearly 2.8 million views on YouTube [http:// youtube/3iaTEgoezNQ], surely a somewhat secondary audience, but one which projects the image of the carrier as fun and creative. Watch it, and I defy you not to smile! On a simpler but promotionally no less effective level, the Uruguayan carrier Pluna Airlines offers bonus frequent flyer points if you share your booking details with friends across a number of social networks. And when Virgin America opened its new terminal at San Francisco International Airport it ran a virtual scavenger hunt, encouraging participants to “check in” on Foursquare so they could win online badges that could be turned into real-world prizes. In each of these instances the financial cost to the airline is pretty small. But by encouraging users to share their experience with their own social networks they are able to enjoy a far greater and potentially

Online check-in QR codes and electronic boarding passes In-flight Wi-Fi and mobile reception Personalised at-seat entertainment services Engagement via social channels

more effective reach than through traditional digital marketing. After all, such social sharing is the new word of mouth. And that’s the most trusted advertising medium there has ever been. If some of these ideas seem like gimmicks, it’s worth considering the size of some of these audiences. They may be bigger and more influential than you think.



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Examples of digital experiences we now often take for granted

 3  1  35  2  2  1 .... 0 .... 0 .... 0  4

Social Network Key YouTube Twitter











Google Plus


73,557 views 62,950 fans

680 followers 90,410 fans


97,164 views 16,912 fans

3,058 followers 36,518 fans


356 followers 38,901 fans



Last October, when Emirates celebrated its 27th birthday by launching an official Google Plus account, it attracted nearly 100,000 followers in a week. At the same time, a post on Emirates’ Facebook page announcing this new social channel received 10,000 likes in one day. Although Middle East based carriers like Emirates are starting to really engage in this space, they’re arguably still behind in terms of the digital audiences enjoyed by some of their US-based counterparts. JetBlue, for example, currently has 1.7 million Twitter followers, considerably more than all the MENA carriers combined. And for those who say that size isn’t everything, it’s worth looking at American Airlines. It has a smaller Twitter audience than JetBlue and a number of other airlines, but it is very digitally engaged, having sent 145,000 tweets to date. These figures dwarf the level of activity (see chart below) for carriers in our own region.


947 views 39.009 fans

2,218 followers 8,537 fans

80,822 views 25,255 fans

6,551 followers 1,953 fans

21,160 views 23,609 fans

808 followers 2,213 fans

14,467 views 16,912 fans

3,058 followers 36,518 fans

835 views 22,627 fans



24,328 views 22,979 fans



3,524 views 4,631 fans

954 followers 8,733 fans




Tencent Weibo

28% 628 fans 1,521 fans

26% 24%

36,518 fans

Seina Weibo



Cover story

The sky is the limit

Importantly, they use Twitter as a twoway communication channel, not simply a broadcasting mechanism (this is an important characteristic of social media success). Many of American’s tweets therefore are in response to direct questions, complaints or comments from users. Jonathan Pierce, American’s Director of Social Media Communications, recently revealed that they receive 1,200 [mentions or direct messages] every day, often from customers in transit seeking a quick response to a query. For these consumers social media is a helpline. And they’re more likely to seek an answer via these channels than through the airline’s helpline. As a result, American Airlines currently employs six staff to look after Twitter alone, with another nine employees looking after their other social feeds. (And unlike many of their competitors, these services are manned 24/7, as befits the round-the-clock nature of their business.) So, what happens next? Evidence (see graphic) suggests that social media spending is, in most cases, going to increase. For most airlines, the digital case has been made. And won. The challenge now is to address key questions around resourcing, HR policy and return on investment (ROI). There’s an opportunity, too. If airlines have started to “get” the benefits of going digital in supporting the pre-and post-flight experience, then surely the next step is to do so when passengers are in-flight. This is particularly the case as Wi-Fi becomes ever more prevalent on board, creating opportunities for enhanced customer engagement even whilst the plane is in the air. So if a passenger comments about an experience good or bad on Facebook or Twitter, there’s an opportunity to respond to it there and then. Expect to see more of this sort of activity in your social feeds in 2013. That aside, the digital challenges the sector faces, as with the need to “go social” in the first place, will be familiar to most management teams, whatever their sector. In terms of resourcing, there is a perennial question of whether to set up dedicated social media teams or to embed these skills across different parts of the organisation. There’s also the challenge of responding to an ever-expanding range of digital outlets, apps and devices. Engagement via channels such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube may now be fairly mainstream, but to what extent should you also have a presence on new platforms like Instagram, Google Plus

Plans to Increase budget for social media next year Likely to increase but amount unknown


Likely to increase budget by less than 25%

6.9% 6.9% 6.9%


Likely to increase budget by 25 %- 50% no increase


Likely to decrease unsure

Case in point

or Pinterest? Such engagement may well gain you kudos with the digerati, but their numbers are small compared with the big three networks. Whatever your digital battleground, many of your staff will already be active on these networks in their own right. So having a social media policy for your workforce may well be essential. After all, your employees can play a great role in developing your brand and providing it with a human face. But they can also potentially damage it. Witness the speed with which Tatiana Kozlenko, a flight attendant with Russian airline Aeroflot, was sacked after a photo she posted of a staff member giving passengers the finger went viral. This was not the kind of image the airline wished to project. And finally, underpinning all of this, is the question of ROI. Does all of this digital

activity make a difference, or are consumers still driven by the bottom line, with brand loyalty all too quickly abandoned in the face of a good deal? ROI may not translate to driving traditional income streams (yet), but digital reach and engagement may prevent them from haemorrhaging. Arguably the best way to see digital channels is not as isolated services, but part of the wider business plan. The CEO of the South African carrier Mango Airlines recently attributed 50% of its revenue growth to social media, with its “Bucket List” campaign – in which consumers submitted their travel wishlists – being harnessed to add value to its new tagline, “Why not today?”. It’s a good question. Whichever way you look at it, the use of social media and digital technologies by airlines looks like it is really starting to take off

bottom line

Ways to Boost Your Future Salary Everyone is looking for a better income. In fact Bayt. com’s December 2012 poll “MENA professional’s New Year Resolutions” revealed that 48% of professionals in the region were set to request a higher salary for 2013 during their appraisals. However, most people ignore some of the basic factors that influence salary growth, and thus lose out on a potential raise. To help you out, the career experts at, offer you top steps to follow in order to boost your future salary:


Observing industry growth trends:


an eye on industry growth trends, as soon as you see the industry growth curve tapering downwards, or if the quarterly growth figures in your industry show a continuous decrease, it’s time to reconsider your career path. Some industries are more susceptible to economic transitions and it’s unwise to remain in a volatile industry for too long. Similarly keep an eye out for indicators of industry growth such as stock prices, large investments or an increase in vacancies in that industry. According to’s 2012 “Top Industries in the MENA” survey, the oil, gas and petrochemicals industry emerged as a regional leader in terms of satisfaction with salary, employee experience, and the perception of professionals employed in other industries.

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Invest in education and certifications:


people are reluctant to pursue higher education thinking that they will have to part with their jobs. However, this concern is redundant as there are many institutions and management schools out there providing online courses and executive evening classes. All you need is some research and you will find the programme that suits your needs perfectly. Investing in higher education can be very beneficial and offer you big future pay-off. Less expensive options include obtaining online certificates in technical areas or industry-specific certifications.’s March 2012 poll on “Online Education and the Job Market in the Middle East” showed that 39.3% of professionals in the region would consider pursuing an online course if given a chance. Through investing in education, you will not only be adding value to yourself but also to the company, which will increase your chances of getting promoted, facilitate career transitions and enable you to negotiate for a higher salary at each stage of your career.

bottom line

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Consider yourself as an investor when planning for your future income:


must try to diversify your income sources so that a sudden economic shift in one industry would be covered by a part-time involvement somewhere else. Start your own business venture based on a hobby, or use your great communication skills and take up opportunities to guest lectures at schools or universities; teach summer courses or get paid for being a freelance photographer.

Dealing with a salary plateau:


reaching a particular career level, many individuals might feel that their growth is halted because of their skills and experience. While you might have attained a good position and are earning a good salary and feel totally comfortable, you should never submit to career stagnancy. On the contrary, make sure you continuously evolve professionally, take the initiative to implement new processes and bring innovation to your work. This will reduce your chances of getting replaced by a more dynamic individual.

5 6

Weigh your college degree against future income potential:


professions will always pay more than others. Choosing your area of specialisation in college can be a crucial determinant of your future earnings. Choose a degree that interests you and do a little research on what the pay scales are for that qualification. This research earlier in your life can significantly affect the sort of opportunities you might receive in the future.

Always negotiate:


offered a new job or an opportunity to contest your existing salary, make it a point to bargain. In the case of a new job offer, engage in rational and healthy negotiations with the employer. Aim for a minimum of 20% increment to your current salary level when specifying your expected salary. As for your existing job, try to come up with measurable objectives and highlight your achievements with your superiors during appraisals to justify and support your salary raise request.

Marketability pays:



stand out from the herd and be more desired by both your existing employer and prospective one, you need to increase your marketability. This can be done by participating in conferences, seminars, workshops etc. which will develop your understanding of your current field and will offer you great networking opportunities. If you have diverse interests try to be involved in groups that support a cause or a hobby that you are passionate about. This will add a new dimension to your profile and increase your marketability, both inside and outside the company.

Professionalism can take you a long way:



known for shirking responsibilities and slackingoff hardly get promoted. Being professional at a lower grade coupled with competency will translate into better career prospects. Being organised and exhibiting commitment to the company will enable you to earn more.

By following these simple guidelines, you can increase your worth and be the most coveted and one of the highest paid employees in today’s competitive job market.


About is the #1 job site in the Middle East with more than 40,000 employers and over 10,250,000 registered job seekers from across the Middle East, North Africa and the globe, representing all industries, nationalities and career levels. Post a job or find jobs on today and access the leading resource for job seekers and employers in the region.

MARCH 2013

Qatar Today 6 1

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luxury amid turbulence

The CEO of luxury flight services company, Rizon Jet, Captain Hassan Al-Mousawi, made strong allegations recently against the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), saying it was hampering rizon jet’s growth. In an exclusive interview with Qatar Today, Al-Mousawi, a passionate airlines professional, expanded on the allegations. by sindh u n a i r 6 2 Qatar Today

MARCH 2013

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-Mousawi would perhaps qualify as the only Qatari to have learned the ropes of the airlines sector by working in a developing country before returning to his home country. According to him, the QCAA was reinforcing the monopoly enjoyed by Qatar Airways, when their job is to be the mediator. “They are supporting the bigger player which is just not fair,” he says. When Qatar Today put this allegation to the QCAA Chairman, HE Abdul Aziz Al-Noaimi (also see page 47)he replied, “QCAA is responsible for regulating aviation operations and managing the aviation hubs in Qatar, and has the right and the full authority to take the appropriate action in case any airline company operating within the Doha International Airport breaks rules and regulations.” Al-Mousawi categorically says that no laws have been broken, and goes on to say that Rizon is willing to be penalised if that is the case. According to Al-Mousawi, Rizon Jet is now at a juncture where they (the board of directors) have to decide whether to continue, and absorb the losses, or cut their loses, shrink operations or just decide to move their operations away from this market and go to other countries where “private entrepreneurs are comparatively welcome”. “It is a pity that such a beautiful facility, which has incurred huge investments, will not be used to its maximum potential,” he says, adding, “It is also a pity that when in one way the country is trying to encourage private enterprise yet in other moves by one of its government bodies it is discouraging existing investors.” Setting up a luxury jet business is no simple matter says Al-Mousawi, reflecting on the process involved before Rizon Jet became part of the aviation sector in the country. Background Rizon Jet was founded in Sharjah, UAE in 2006 and is headquartered in Doha, with additional operating bases strategically located in the United Arab Emirates and Europe (United Kingdom). “Until 2007, it was not allowed for private investments in the aviation sector. In 2007, the council of Ministers approved the establishment of private jet and air ambulance businesses. Fifteen companies applied for this, of which seven got prequalified. Out of the seven, only two got licences and went on to deliver the rest of the formalities according to the terms and preconditions, all mandatory for issuing the permit. In the end, only one company, Rizon Jet, exercised the privilege of the permit and is (so far) in business,” he explains. The risks involved in the airline business, the high

investments and the time needed for the business to grow and conquer the market make this business less lucrative, says Al-Mousawi, explaining the lack of interest. Rizon Jet focuses on providing a comprehensive suite of private aviation services like aircraft charter, aircraft maintenance, management and use of VIP Terminal, aircraft sale, acquisition and consulting. In March 2012, Rizon Jet’s VIP terminal was officially inaugurated under the patronage of the Chairman of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority. “Initially the companies were allowed to use the VIP facilities of Qatar Airways,” he narrates, “but later, as we realised that there was scope for more business, we applied to set up our own terminal. The land was allocated through the Prime Minister’s office on the condition that we build the terminal, equip it and run it for our own jets and for other private jet usage.” Explaining the numbers involved in the current business, he says, “In 2012 there were about 1,500 private jet movements in Qatar. Compare that to 80,000 movements in and out of the Doha International Airport, private jet is just a small portion of a large business. Of the 1,500 movements, 300 were Rizon Jet’s own and 400 were movements by other private jet companies that came through Rizon Jet facilities.” “The customer pays more for using our facilities but this segment of customer doesn’t mind shelling extra money for the luxury, the privacy and the fivestar facility. By making our facilities available to other private jets we were not reducing the income of Qatar Aviation Services (QAS) which enjoys a monopoly on ground handling in Doha International Airport,” he says. From November 2012, Rizon Jet was informed that it was no longer authorised to use its facilities for third-party jets. “We have built such huge facilities to accommodate other private jets. Since we were issued the licence, we have been providing our facility for private jets. In fact the movement of private jets using our facility were more than our own, and now this is a huge blow for us as it cripples our major activity” he says. This, and another instant when Rizon Jet approached the authorities to set up a travel agency, as a one stop-shop for customers’ travel needs and was refused, reflects a lack of support from the authorities, according to Al-Mousawi. The licence was issuedat the end of May 2012 and six months later it was withdrawn with the reason given that the travel agency was located on the land of Doha International Airport which is for the exclusive use of Qatar Aviation Services (QAS). Rizon Jet, says Captain Al- Mousawi, will approach the judicial system for an explanation, as there has been no violation of any kind of any conditions set by the QCAA

M ARCH 2 0 1 3

“Rizon jet is in the development phase and hence cannot accept the losses and the hindrances that dot our path at this stage.” Captain Hassan Al-Mousawi ceo, Rizon Jet

Qatar Today 6 3

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Censorship or self-censorship Which is the greater evil? Qatar placed 110th out of 179 countries in the “Reporters without Borders” Press Freedom Index for 2013, a four-spot jump from its ranking in the 2011-2012 index.


by A nna li se Fr a nk

country has had a tumultuous half-decade, with its ranking on the index ranging from 74 (out of 173) in 2008 to 121 (out of 178) in 2010. But recently, the imprisonment of poet Mohammad Al-Ajami has given residents a reason to mull over the line between acceptable and unacceptable discourse. AlAjami, whose life sentence has been shortened to 15 years, according to a February 25 Reuters article, was no journalist, and his case is one of freedom of expression. But the daily media’s failure to report on his sentencing in January –none of the local news hubs covered it, according to the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) – begged an answer to a question of ethics: What does the public have a right to know, and what is too sensitive for the news? “We believe that this is a freedom of speech case,” Jan Egeland, a Deputy Executive Director of Human Rights Watch,

6 4 Qatar Today

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said during a February press conference in Doha. “[Qatar] should be a freedom of information and expression hub in the world.” Freedom, or not? Despite the presence of the governmentsponsored DCMF, the centre’s founding concept doesn’t have a universal definition in Qatar. “Media freedom” exists in a hazy grey area, one where the facts are delivered by the concerned parties. “I think our organisation’s existence reflects the willingness of the leaders of Qatar to go towards press freedom,” says Jan Keulen, General Director of DCMF. “DCMF is in kind of a unique situation, because there is nothing similar in, let’s say, the neighbouring countries or the Arab world.” Freedom of the press has been discussed in Doha for several years, despite the country’s relatively low Reporters Without Bor-

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ders ranking. DCMF was established in 2007, and top officials have advocated for journalists’ protection in the UN. As an organisation, DCMF weighs in on international and local topics, recently calling for support for Syrian and Gazan journalists. It has also hosted localised training sessions on reporting and social media. Keulen made a brief public statement on the Qatari poet’s case in January. Adding to that statement, he told Qatar Today: “It was published all over the world by all the big newspapers, but the Qatari media kept silent. So that proves that it’s a very sensitive issue. And I think yes, it does [create] an atmosphere where they ask themselves, ‘Can I write about it or can I not write about it?’ I think the attitude should be ‘Don’t shoot the messenger.’” Keulen joined DCMF in June 2011, relaunching the international programme and reforming its approach after a two-year hiatus brought on by the departure of previous director Robert Menard. Keulen leads less forcefully – he has asserted that freedom must be “built”, as he told journalists soon after taking the position. “During the first years, they faced a number of problems and the relationship between local media and my predecessor was not very good,” he says. “So we have to rebuild our credibility. And so my approach has been to assess, actually, the needs of the different media.” Very few numbers exist to define the media in Qatar; the fact that 5% of Arabic newspaper employees are Qataris was about all DCMF could divulge. However, the team has recently begun preparations for research into categories that define media progress, called media development indicators, created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. In an eight-month collaboration with Qatar University, DCMF will study indicators such as journalistic quality, output, education, legal frameworks and technical infrastructure. HH the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abolished pre-censorship in 1995, but since then another word designating information control has floated to the lips of some journalists: self-censorship. “I know self-censorship is kind of rampant among the English-speaking journalists,” says Christina Paschyn, a freelance

journalist and lecturer at Northwestern University in Qatar. The concept means “you always second guess yourself, like - ‘Do I really want to cover this story, or will I get kicked out of the country, or will I lose my job over this?’” Paschyn says. A newspaper reporter who consented to an anonymous interview agrees that she fears “falling into trouble”, though the definition of “trouble” is ambiguous. But she denies the existence of “self-censorship” specifically – the term is too kind. “There is censorship here,” she says. She doesn’t mean official censorship – yes, that was abolished. She means implied control. Editors do comb through articles and decide whether or not they’re publishable. In addition to considering accuracy, they consider whether the printed text will “bring out some information that could be harmful,” the reporter says. “There are a lot of things we want to publish that we don’t publish,” she adds. If a story under consideration isn’t completely cut from the roster, the paper can publish a “safe” version of the “unsafe” news item. Many mornings, the reporter says, she will read a piece she wrote the night before and find that “main” segments of it have been removed. She confirms that in some instances her editor-in-chief has received calls from officials asking why their team published certain stories, or wrote them a specific way, but she does not elaborate. Other publications, like magazines and TV stations, face similar internal and external pressures to conform. Are the risks worth it? “Why are you self-censoring?” Keulen asks. “Why don’t you want to take any risk? Because you have a good job. This is not your country, so why risk that? [But] as a matter of fact... journalism is about risk.” Doha News, because it is an independent website, hasn’t had any backlash from the government, even when writing on controversial subjects like the Villaggio fire and Al-Ajami’s imprisonment. When its coverage of a certain event is appreciated, however, they have been called by officials congratulating them. “My perspective is always: ‘Is it legitimate? Is it fair? Is it a worthwhile story?

Have we tried to get the details and present it accurately and fairly?’” says Omar Chatriwala, co-founder of the site. “That’s more important than getting in trouble.” But he admits that with few advertisers and a small staff, Doha News doesn’t have much to lose, unlike larger TV stations, magazines and papers. The anonymous reporter suggests it may be easier for the few Qatari journalists to bring change to the media, because it is their country and they hold the power. And, according to Keulen, Qatar does have the infrastructure for “high-quality” media. His first prescribed solution is a new media law – one that will clearly define these mystery boundaries and journalists’ rights. It will replace the present legislation, written in 1979 and widely regarded as archaic.

A glance at media freedom across MENA


ith a tumultuous atmosphere of regime change and ongoing uprisings, the MENA region has made both gains and failures in press freedom. Despite government handovers, Tunisia and Egypt have remained low on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2013 (138 and 158, respectively, out of 179). Kuwait, at 77, and Lebanon, at 101, both managed to score higher than Qatar, at 110, while the country’s closer neighbours, the UAE (114), Saudi Arabia (163) and Bahrain (165), scored lower. Syria, named the most deadly country for journalists, has remained fourth from last on the list (176). The proportion of people in the world living in “free press” societies fell to its lowest level in a decade in 2011, but cautious gains have been seen in the MENA region since then, according to a 2012 Freedom House report.

M ARCH 2 0 1 3

Qatar Today 6 5

t a gt atghitshi s

Jan Keulen General Director of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.

The second recommendation is for expatriates and Qataris alike to fuel their reporting with courage instead of fear. A detainment in Qatar Journalist Peter Townson, clad in a powder blue collared shirt and salmon pink trousers, sat down at Starbucks with a story to tell. The 27-year-old expatriate’s appearance brightened the situation, otherwise centred on a tense subject. Now a reporter with DCMF, Townson worked for the Gulf Times until August 2012. Before that, he grew up in Doha and then attended the University of Bristol in the UK. While he was at the Gulf Times, selfcensorship in newspapers was common and stories often had to be changed. “It’s so ingrained in the culture here, coming from the authorities,” he says, specifying that he only has experience with English-language media. In 2008, Townson contributed to a series published in the Gulf Times about migrant workers being barred from public places on Family Days. A US State Department human rights report mentions his arrest and detainment occurring in October. This was after he wrote a story called “Souq shock for Asian bachelors”, published on Thursday, October 2, according to a PDF of the article obtained by Qatar Today. “Everything in [the story] was completely true, and that was never questioned once” during the eight-hour period in which he was detained, he says.

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The Ministry of Interior did not respond in a timely manner to requests for information to confirm these circumstances. Townson was told he would find out whether he would have to face trial within 30 days, but heard nothing after being released – that is, until over a year later. Finally, after many days of ambiguity, Townson was informed of the charges: defamation and damaging the reputation of the state. A judge sentenced him to a QR1,000 fine and three years of suspension, with a month’s imprisonment if he broke the law again. Looking back on the situation, Townson admits it was tough. But he doesn’t regret it – in the event of time travel, he’d write the story all over again. “I think you just lose all credibility if you ignore something that other people can see is happening,” he says. But the incident did change reporting for Townson: “It’s like walking a tightrope, because I’m always aware of how quickly it can go wrong... Much as what was going on abhors me, it seems kind of acceptable here, and no story that I write is going to change that.” Considering the vision Darwish S. Ahmed, the new editor- in-chief of the Gulf Times, uses the pronoun “we” when discussing the actions of Qatar. That is not something one hears when interviewing expat journalists, but Ahmed has lived in Doha all of his 53 years. He knows as well as any older Qatari the gravitational shift that has been shaping his country since he learned to walk. “Eight months ago, when I came to the Gulf Times, I asked, ‘Guys, is there any red line?’” Ahmed says. “‘Absolutely none,’ they answered.” At the mention of the word “self-censorship”, Ahmed cocks his head to the side. He’s never heard of it. After a brief explanation, he concludes that the Gulf Times doesn’t practise it. “We get words from responsible people,” he says. “They are responsible to state facts. We must not mislead our reader. Our aim is always to provide people with news and the information that shows Qatar is healthy.” Ahmed illustrates his view of critical media in a simple metaphor: An expansive whiteboard represents Qatar’s actions. Progress and prestige fill the space. Perceived wrongdoings are represented by a tiny red dot in the centre of the board. He

calls those who focus on the red dot “hunters”. “The only ones who talk about Qatar’s negatives are those who don’t understand what Qatar is,” he says. Changing the rules A draft media law has been “reviewed by the concerned departments,” and is now awaiting enactment by the State Cabinet, according to Khalil Abdalla Khalil, a legal adviser to the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQatar). However, it will only regulate “traditional media”. So an additional law, on digital media, is being drafted, Khalil wrote in an email. The digital media law will cover areas such as copyright, privacy and online advertising. “[It] should avoid overlapping or contradictions with the existing laws,” Khalil added. Discussions on the law’s scope are still being held to ensure that it is “enforceable and practical”, because the internet realm is difficult to regulate. Khalil says he recognises the risk of “overregulation”, and goes on to point out: “We believe that the governance of the digital media should not be a threat to freedom of speech and expression.” “This law, while some say it would be an improvement because it shows you the lines clearly and you know what you can and can’t do, I think there are just too many things you can’t do for it to make sense,” Chatriwala says, speaking of the more often-discussed draft media law. “My hope is that it will be revised.” According to Doha News and another source, this media law, in its draft form, will negate the option to imprison journalists for their reporting, but will include the possibility of fines of up to QR1 million. It is also slated to include stipulations against, among other things, promoting subversive ideals, insulting heads of state and harming the moral freedom of others. It also includes regulations for online news sites. Requests for a copy of the draft law were denied. Two TV stations did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. An Arabic newspaper declined to comment. Asked about the media law’s implementation, Ahmed of the Gulf Times says he does not wish to “stick our nose in other people’s business”. “When it comes to the time where we need to talk about it, we will talk about it.”

t a gt atghitshi s

What does

product innovation mean to you?

Much has been written and said about triggers of product innovation. Often changes in technologies demand, or regulatory rules trigger, the development of new products. But how exactly do these changes lead to innovation? As so often, the answer is simple but multidimensional.


answer is centred on the mind of companies’ leaders. The agenda of top managers in the same industry very often looks relatively similar. For much of the time the same strategic issues, issues of great importance for the companies, are on that agenda. While the issues that receive top managers’ attention might be similar, companies’ responses to the issues at hand vary to a large extent. In the early 2000s, for example, many German automobile supplier companies were confronted with similar issues: new customers’ requests, new safety regulations, and the aftermath of a recent recession in Europe and the US, two key markets for the automobile industry. Responding to these issues, many automobile supplier companies introduced new products to the

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market. Yet my research has shown that this is the point where the similarity stops. Reacting upon the same issue, the novelty of the products developed differed tremendously. Some firms came up with the most novel products while other firms just slightly changed their existing products. How can we explain these differences? As expressed, the mind of top managers and their cognitive processes are essential for explaining the differences in innovativeness of new products. In a more general discussion, people will easily agree that not everyone shares the same view of the world. But it is exactly this simple thought that helps address the questions raised. Facing the same strategic issue, top managers of different firms will evaluate the issue dif-

t a g t hi s

ferently. For example, one of my studies has shown that CEOs of German companies developed very different evaluations of the enlargement of the European Union (EU) in 2004 when 10 more countries joined. While some top managers saw this event as something very positive for their company, others saw it in a much more negative light. Finally, other leaders saw it ambivalently; they evaluated the enlargement of the EU as something very positive and very negative at the same time. Thinking negatively leads to less innovative products “Negative is stronger than positive.” We know from former research that negative evaluations and emotions have greater impact than positive ones. Negative evaluations are the kinds that most often elicit responses from individuals and companies. When top managers evaluate a change to the industry environment in a negative light, they are assessing this event as likely to lead to losses for the company; put another way, leaders with negative perceptions of triggering events feel threatened. Under these circumstances, leaders tend to seek less information, or information that is already familiar to them, making them less likely to seek out the kind of new information that will lead to the development of more innovative products. Hence the more negative a top manager’s perceptions of the trigger event, the less innovative the resulting product. This insight raises the next question: How can leaders practically control for cognition in innovation? The first step is identifying the factors that influence the negativity of managerial perceptions. The company lens – the role of strategy Top managers do not develop their evaluations of strategic issues in a vacuum – quite the contrary. How managers see the world is very much driven by the company in which they find themselves. In other words, different characteristics of a company, such as its strategy or its resources, create

a lens through which leaders see events in their environment. Accordingly, these characteristics also influence the degree to which top managers negatively interpret strategic issues. For example, a more defensive firm strategy – the company mainly focuses on maintaining market position and only becomes active when the numbers go down – primes executives to see the external environment as a threat that they must defend the company against. In contrast, executives primed by an offensive strategy – the company constantly tries to capitalise on new developments and is partly responsible for changes in the industry – view the external environment as a source of new opportunities. Here, leaders develop a less negative view of strategic issues relative to their peers who work in a company driven by a more defensive strategy. Innovativeness: Money matters – but not in the expected way Often it is argued that money can help firms to develop more innovative products. This is correct. However, my research has shown that simply dedicating more money to a product development project is not enough to develop more novel products. It is rather that a firm’s resources shape how managers see the world, which then influences companies’ activities such as product development. More resources lead to less negative evaluations, which help develop more novel products. Thus the effect of resources is indirect. In sum, the innovativeness of new products decreases as the negativity of managerial perceptions increases. Meanwhile, a company’s resources and strategy provide the soil in which top managers develop their worldview and, thus, the negativity with which they see strategic issues. From research to practice The first step is to make yourself aware of these processes of cognition. Making strategic decisions, as a leader you should con-

stantly remind yourself of these processes and how they shape your decisions. In addition, have you ever purposefully tried to look at a strategic issue from different angles? Have you sought to get advice from people outside the company who are not exposed to the factors within your firm that shape your views on a given issue? Try to find people who challenge your view. Of course this is difficult, as most people don’t appreciate a situation in which their thoughts are challenged. Who likes to be put on the spot or to voluntarily have a chat with the devil’s advocate? Also, given their natural role, leaders rather guide others and normally don’t seek contrasting views on purpose. But it is important to learn to listen, to be challenged, and to explain. Discussions with company outsiders - especially of industry events that seem crucial for the company – do not necessarily happen naturally, which is why many companies should organise formal collaborations with universities, consultants or other companies. As a leader you should also be aware of your context. Most of the time people feel “swamped”. The day-to-day life of their company needs their full attention. Strategic planning, the numbers, meetings... all of these need to be addressed. But top managers could gain a lot by sometimes taking a step back and by reflecting upon possible influences on their decision-making processes. You can start with simple questions: Can you explain why you have come to this evaluation of the strategic issue at hand? What could have guided your interpretation process? Also, ask yourself how proactive or reactive your company is. Does your company predominantly change only when the numbers go down or does your company envision changes and constantly challenge its comfort zone? These issues matter because they determine how you see the world. It is likely to take some time to think this through. Yet it is time well spent because it can help you make different and possibly better strategic decisions


By Dr Nils Plambeck Associate Professor of Strategy and Business Policy at HEC Paris Professor Plambeck’s primary research interests concern the determinants and consequences of top managers’ cognition. He addresses questions of how CEOs’ cognitive processes influence strategic change and firms’ actions such as product innovation. He earned his doctorate and a Diplom-kaufmann with a focus on strategy and sociology from the University of Hamburg.

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Finding the right mix “Crops for the Future” looks to Qatar to improve diversity in food production by A nna li se F r a nk


Sayed Azam-Ali CEO, Crops for the Future Research Centre

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magine your ultimate midafternoon fruit cocktail. It’s vibrantly coloured and icy to the touch, with a slice of orange peeking out of the glass – but what’s inside? You’ll probably pick some old standby ingredients like bananas, strawberries, pineapple and lemon. But why focus on fruits that people across the world gorge on? Try mixing in some nutritional options that haven’t yet made names for themselves in supermarkets and on restaurant menus. “People are using the same plants that everyone’s familiar with,” says Professor Sayed Azam-Ali, CEO of the Crops for the Future Research Centre. “And actually there are a lot of plants that we can take from tropical fruits and vegetables that have very high micronutrients that we can put into the cocktail.” Azam-Ali’s organisation, Crops for the Future, is a private research centre established in 2009 and based in Malaysia. It is looking to expand to regional hubs across the world. Azam-Ali, on his second visit to Qatar, says the country is first on the centre’s list of potential partners. It is also the first country they have visited to look for investors. Brand new and still in the process of building, Crops for the Future was created with a mind to improve diversity in crop production across the planet. Construction of the domes that will house the Malaysian offices, laboratories and visitors’ centre was set to begin last month and be completed around April 2014. In this society dominated by three crops, wheat, rice and maize, we don’t consume a very wide range of nutrients, Azam-Ali as-


Digest some facts about the world’s food diversity There are


edible plant species on earth, but less than

Three crops, wheat, rice and maize, make

The MENA region’s staple foods are:

Rice is a staple food for more than

up 60%

rye, wheat, lentils and barley.

1.6 billion

of humans’ food energy intake.


are being used.

serts. Steps must be taken to provide evidence about the need for a balanced, varied diet. The answer lies with alternative, or less popular, crops, and also in promoting indigenous plants – in this case, those that can survive the parched desert. Crops for the Future hopes to impact, among others, the healthy fruit juice and smoothie industry. Consumers don’t have to look those rare, possibly strange-looking vegetables in the eye. They just have to slurp the nutrients out through a straw. Malaysia won the right to host the research organisation through an international bidding competition with 12 other countries. In 2008, Azam-Ali had moved to the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus as Vice-Provost. Crops for the Future was launched with a QR146 million ($40 million) investment from the Malaysian government and cooperation from the University of Nottingham in the UK. Both are guarantors, not owners. “It was established as a private company,” Azam-Ali says. “For us that’s enormously helpful, because establishing a company means you can actually do research on what you want to do and you can bring in any partners you want, because you don’t then have to just work with the government.” Cultivation in Qatar Private investment makes up a substantial portion of the business model. So, when turning to Qatar as a potential host for the centre’s “arid region” research facilities, Crops for the Future must find commercial enterprises willing to take a risk on alternative crops, in addition to cooperating with authorities. The crops suited for cultivation

in the Gulf could be sold as fish or livestock feed, biofuel or human food, depending on their characteristics. “We are looking at places where we wish to have international collaboration, to work as a centre that... is a global alliance with partners working on so-called under-utilised or alternative crops that haven’t had the research investment in them that the big crops have,” Azam-Ali says. He would not give examples of the “alternative crops” the organisation is seeking to market commercially. It’s hard to say, he admits, because Crops for the Future is still in its early stages. They don’t have much hard evidence yet. “That’s a double-edged sword,” he says. “Once you’ve promoted a certain food, and it doesn’t turn out to be as great as you said it would be, people get very disillusioned and disappointed. So we’re not really in the business of promoting particular plants. There’s no wonder crop out there.” Crops for the Future isn’t sold on the old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It’s more about diversity than pinpointing a cure. However, according to the centre’s website, some underutilised plants include hanza, a Nigerian famine food; cherimoya, an acidic fruit commercially produced in Peru and Chile; and African cabbage, a highly nutritious vegetable that grows in hot, dry conditions. Health from diversity A diet based on a healthy assortment of affordable crops is like medicine – at the very least, preventive medicine – for those in danger of developing non-communicable dis-

people around the world, particularly in Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa.

eases like diabetes and high blood pressure. In short, Azam-Ali says, the human race can’t live on grains, grains and more grains. High in calories but low in health benefits, crops like rice and wheat can be mistaken as solutions to world hunger. But Crops for the Future knows better. Those who neglect nutrient-rich foods can become deficient in iron, zinc and selenium, which can have negative effects on children’s brain development, according to Azam-Ali and a 2011 study on iron deficiency published in Nutrition Reviews. Iron deficiency at an early age “not only affects brain and behavioural function during the period of iron deficiency, it persists long after treatment,” according to the study. So, the solution? Education, with research to back it up. Plans aren’t set in stone, but the centre will work to promote healthy eating. Azam-Ali mentions Qatar’s recent National Sport Day. It’s a good sign that the country is recognising the inactive lifestyles of its residents, he says. “But there also has to be a link with the fact that they don’t eat the right food. If they’re increasingly eating sugar and oil and calorie-rich foods, there’s going to be an epidemic of obesity. “It’s not for me to tell Qatar how to manage its food security,” he continues, and then pauses thoughtfully. “But I will. I’ll suggest that it should look at a wider range of ingredients that come in the supply chain. I think there’s an enormous potential there to commercialise or to build on the local cuisine that is indigenous to this part of the world.” If those ingredients can come from the native desert, all the better. But nothing is certain

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wellness warriors

success through health Qatar Today continues its health and living series where the top echelons answer the hard questions about sustaining a work-life balance, and issue some healthy living guidelines of their own. This month we focus on a female entrepreneur trying to make it big in qatar. Rachel Petero, founder and CEO of Genviva, took on the challenge of creating and launching the Women Leading Change initiative in Qatar in less time than it takes many expats to come to terms with the traffic in Doha! Being an entrepreneur is a challenge in itself, so what does it take to achieve so much in so little time? What are Rachel’s secrets to success? Like many very successful people, she finds that investing in herself and nourishing key relationships are key success strategies.

more focus, more hours, and in order to maintain this level of productivity I had to stay healthy, so continued with my green smoothies for breakfast as often as I could. I have also taught myself about portion control, which has been a big factor. My biggest vice is bread and cheese, which I limit as much as possible and treat myself only occasionally versus often. Having a mind that functions at a very high level and the ability to handle stress are essential to achieving goals.

er lifestyle, being happy and being loved. Do you see any benefits to your leadership ability as a result of creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself ? Leadership development is what I do, and I can say personally that I am a better leader when I am healthier. The best leaders I have worked with also have some level of balance to their lives in order to sustain a highly productive and high-impact lifestyle that includes diet and exercise.

What’s your approach to fuelling your success? What changes have you made recently? My greatest lifestyle change has been moving to Qatar, and my most beneficial health change has been the introduction to the benefits of raw food. I started to drink green smoothies in the morning and the benefits were amazing. I am not a religious raw food eater but I am definitely more educated about the benefits and what works for my body in my forties.

How have food and lifestyle changes affected you in this area? Taking good care of myself gives me more time to create and think strategically, against being caught up in too much detail. I am very good at juggling multiple projects, and I think diet plays a big part in managing everything that comes with being an entrepreneur, running events and giving back through associated charities and non-profit organisations like TEDx, alongside being a mentor, wife, aunty and friend to many. I totally believe that stress can be minimised with a good diet and regular exercise. A lot of people would have been totally stressed out relocating to a new country, starting a new business in Qatar, developing new business contacts, running six huge events in the same year – and that’s only the tip of the iceberg! But I managed to keep all the plates spinning and have an exceptional year, and I put a lot of this down to a healthi-

What’s your fitness plan? Walking is what I enjoy in Qatar. In the hot season on the treadmill and in the cooler times of the year along the Corniche. I walk for at least an hour three times a week. It’s my outlet for stress and I have more energy when I am exercising regularly.

What triggered you to make these changes? Launching and running my own business in London before my husband and I relocated to Qatar, I needed to look after myself to stay physically alert. I was now in charge of my wealth and my health and I needed to get the balance right. Being a start-up entrepreneur in a new country required

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Food is fuel

What does a typical day’s diet consist of for you?  Breakfast: Cereal or green smoothie  Lunch: Salad  Dinner: Fish, tuna or chicken with salad  Snacks: Lots of nuts and dried fruit How does your spiritual practice support your health and well-being? I surround myself with positive affirmations and people and this is essential to my health and well-being. Those who know me can see I attract a certain profile of person and net-

Petero’s 10 tips for managing stress: Have a plan for a sustainable business. Believe in yourself and your vision. If it doesn’t align to your vision, ask yourself: why am I doing it? Build a global network and maintain it, you may need it one day, I did! Have mentors who fill the gaps and experience you lack. The more successful they are the better. Benchmark y ourself against the best and aim high (NB: Don’t compare, just benchmark, there is a big difference). Ask the right questions of the right people. Go direct to the source, you will save yourself a lot of time. Listen more and talk less. Keep your networks diverse, global and aspirational. Ask for help to grow and develop your business. you can’t do it alone.

work. If you are a negative person our paths won’t cross. Relationships are a key part of health and well-being. How do you maintain good relationships with colleagues, family and friends with such a busy schedule? With colleagues I am upbeat, positive, honest, and do what I say. I love to mentor and develop others so continuously have mentees around the world. I love working with teams – people keep me on my toes. My family are everything. They remind me where I come from and keep me humble and down-to-earth. I would be nothing without the unconditional love and support of my


Twitter @AALNicole

family, especially my husband. My husband John and I are blessed to have six nieces and nephews, who all live in New Zealand. We are proud of every one of them. They range from 21 to 10 years old, with three girls and three boys to keep us feeling young and alive. Friends are like family. You need great

friends around you in the good and the bad times. I have friends all over the world. The best friends are the ones you just pick up with where you left off without having to be in touch every day of the year. A diverse age and cultural range of friends is what interests me. I am fascinated by new cultures

By nicole van hattem Nicole van Hattem is the Founder and Director of the Art of Abundant Living, the only Corporate Wellness and Health Coaching Company in Qatar. Email:

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tech talk

What is

Visual Social Marketing?

By Kapil Bh ati a

First we had the weblogs or blogs, and then came the updates on Facebook, Orkut, My Space followed by Tumblr posts. This was followed by mobile blogging on sites like Posterous which shrunk to Tweets and finally to Instagram and Pinterest. The medium through which we express our thoughts and emotions online have changed drastically over a decade. We now express more with fewer words. In many cases words are replaced by a photograph or a video.

internet users have shifted their mode of communication and so have many online businesses and brands. Here’s how smart brands are navigating the new visual social-media era. A 2012 study by ROI Research found that when users engage with friends on social media sites, it’s the pictures they put that are enjoyed the most. Forty four percent of respondents are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media. Pictures have become one of our default modes of sorting and understanding the vast amounts of information we’re exposed to every day. The study concluded that women are more likely to respond to pictures and men are more likely to

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respond to videos. The trend towards the visual media is also influenced by the shifting habits of technology users. As more people engage with social media via smartphones, they’re discovering that taking a picture “on the go” using a high-resolution phone is much less tedious than typing out a status update on a two-inch keyboard. In addition, the quickest growing social networks and applications are visual. Flipboard, a visual news app, was the number one application when the iPad was launched. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. We can communicate more infor-

tech talk

Images are the most shared and clicked on content on Twitter. Images receive 50% more interactions on Facebook. Google+ users have uploaded 3.4 billion photos.

How important is visual media for video in the Middle East. The below stats would help you gauge the levels There are

260 million

video views in MENA region – that makes the region on 2nd highest after the US.

Run time for the clips increased on the site by


in 2012 -vs- 2011.

mation faster with images than with text. Our brains are naturally drawn to the content that gets the message across quickly as there is information overload online. Images break through the clutter and immediately and quickly communicate messages. The reality is that images are leading social content for sharing. Meaning that images are highly viewed, engaged with, shared, and clicked on in social networks. If you want your website content shared across visual social networks, you need to

follow @kapilkb blog @ amateur photographer @earsplease.


of users in Saudi Arabia watch videos using their mobile devices, while 35% have uploaded their own content.

Marketers need to take an advantage of this trend by adopting the below tips: Include appropriate images on all of the pages on your website. This will ensure that your site is highly sharable on the visual web and can drive more traffic, leads, and sales to your site. Your product pages and blog posts should include highly relevant photos. Optimise your social content to break through the clutter with images. Most leading businesses are making use of images in their content on all social networks. Your Facebook, Twitter, blog, and even LinkedIn strategies should be images driven. Join image social networks like Pinterest and Instagram. Brands have seen tremendous success in brand building as well as generating traffic, leads, and sales from these networks. There’s nothing more powerful than video for creating a presentation intended to increase brand recognition and appeal. Youtube is the most used video site for all types of video including marketing related clips and your brand must be there.

have a strong image strategy The need for brands to get to the point quicker than ever came about as online users became more pressed for time and with the increase in content. With advancements in computing power and Internet bandwidth, in 2013, the average online user can now easily stream product videos and download image heavy pages. Search engines have changed their logic on ranking content and the old Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) methods may

not work. Search engines rank content based on social conversations and sharing, not just websites alone. Brands can use visual content on their social media to increase engagement and inspire sharing that can lead to viral marketing. The rise of platforms like Pinterest and acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, shows how visual content is becoming an increasingly important force for communication online. We can even go on to say that visual content will be the king in the future

By Kapil Bhatia Kapil Bhatia is an E-Business Manager, working in the Financial Services Industry for the past 10 years. His work ranges across Digital Marketing, eChannels and development of marketing strategies, with a sound Information Technology base. is an up-and-coming technology blog in the Middle East, which will feature talk about Tech Entertainment, Social Networks and Digital Trends and also list jobs. it will offer insightful analysis about Big Data and the Internet industry and will feature Start-ups in the Middle East region.

MARCH 2013

Qatar Today 7 5

tech talk

Jury still out on BB10 The much-anticipated BlackBerry 10 is finally on the shelves in Doha. The smartphone company formerly known as RIM released it in six different cities across the world on January 30, and Rory Coen was lucky enough to be present at the regional launch in Dubai. So what were his first impressions of the new device?


etting a new phone can be quite a stressful ordeal. It’s never fluid and seamless, that’s for sure. In fact, after 12 years of experiencing various handheld devices, I can now say that the average person goes through seven distinct phases after acquiring a new smartphone. I know I do, anyway, and I’m pretty average. Let’s analyse these steps through the lens of my new BlackBerry Z10. 1. Excitement: Who isn’t excited to get a new phone, be it smart or dumb. I had been using the BlackBerry Curve – a fantastic piece of kit, by the way – for the best part of a year before I was invited to try the new BlackBerry Z10. This model is of course the touch-screen – the Q10 has the physical keyboard but hasn’t been released onto the market yet. The Q10 was the one I wanted, but they gave me the Z10. I heard stories of faster Internet speeds, more fluid navigation between the applications, an innovative “hub” where I would control all my applications for one menu. I was terribly excited. 2. Confusion: When you turn on your new phone for the first time, everything confuses you. “What’s this for?”, “Why would I want to do that?”, “Where’s this application, where’s that application?”. It’s a nightmare. “Why are they making smaller SIM cards?”, “Why do I need to register for this?”, “What’s Development Mode?”, “How do I transfer my contacts from my old phone to this one?”. The list is endless – it’s goes on until infinity. You’re straight onto the Inter-

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net reading reviews – putting “BlackBerry 10 useless” into Google to see what comes out. What’s worse is that the BlackBerry officials told us at the launch that What’s App would be in the BlackBerry World app store, so you can understand my confusion when I saw that it in fact was not. 3. Disappointment: So when you don’t fully come out of your confused state, you transition pretty swiftly into Phase 3. You’re in shock. You’re so disappointed with this new acquisition. It was supposed to be your new best friend. It was supposed to solve all the problems with your old phone. It was to be quicker and more reliable. You can’t get used to the new touch-screen keypad. It’s taking forever to write one simple sentence, which you would have written in two seconds on the old phone. You’re having to remember passwords that were saved on your old phone. Your Internet is constantly dropping and you don’t know why. 4. Denial: You’re afraid to tell any of your friends and family that you made a big mistake. You keep telling them that the BlackBerry 10 is all it cracked up to be – it’s much better than its immediate competitors. “So why aren’t my messages going through?” asks your friend. “I’m experiencing a couple of networking issues, a few teething problems. But you should see how slick and fluid it is going between the apps. It’s a great phone.” Meanwhile, you’re back on Google filtering through more and more reviews hoping other people are experiencing the same issues as you.

tech talk

Specs at a glance: BlackBerry Z10

Thorsten Heins,

CEO, BlackBerry

5. Regret: You cave in and decide to go back to your old phone – the place “where everybody knows your name”, but your SIM doesn’t fit it anymore. You haven’t been in contact with your friends on instant messenger for a couple of days now. You would give up food for a week to retrieve the old situation. 6. Reconciliation: You eventually concede that you need to give the phone time. It’s quite possible that the phone is as confused as you are and you both need to get to know each other before you can have a harmonious relationship. BlackBerry says that the keypad will eventually get to know your favourite words and nuances and will help you to type faster if you give it time. Maybe there are some better applications that can replace my old ones. 7. Delight and contentment: After some days, you eventually get to where you want to be. Your favourite apps are all on your home screen. You are typing as fast, if not faster, than on your previous phone. You’re able to download new apps in a fraction of the old time. You can have multiple apps open at the same time, instead of having to close down one and open another. You are flipping between these apps like you are turning pages on a newspaper. Having had the phone for just over a week now, I am struggling through Phase 6 at the moment. But, there are some excellent features that tickle my fancy. The Internet browser is a dream to use. It’s fast and produces neat text. The hub is a great idea; it aggregates all your messages and notifications – e-mail, SMS, BBM, Facebook, Google Chat, LinkedIn and Twitter – into one generator, but it also allows you to see each application independently of any other. I am disappointed that What’s App isn’t included in the package. This was a programme which I used quite frequently with my friends


1280x768 4.2” (356 ppi) IPS touchscreen


BlackBerry 10


Dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus




Qualcomm Adreno 225


16GB NAND flash, expandable via microSD


802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC


Micro USB, Micro HDMI, headphones


8.0MP rear camera, 2MP front camera


5.12” x 2.58” x 0.35” (130 x 65.6 x 9 mm)


4.78oz (135.4 g)


1800 mAh

Starting price



Ambient light sensor, GPS

Other perks

Power adapter, case, screen cleaner

and family back home. I am assuming it will become available in the coming weeks, however. The Z10’s predictive typing is pretty innovative, though. As you type, small word suggestions appear over the top of the keys. It makes general suggestions for conjunctions and such when you’re between words, but it will continue to make suggestions as you progress through words: typing H, for instance, could make “how” appear over the U key, “had” appear over the R key, or “has” appear over the N key, and so on. The camera is another feature I enjoyed. I took a picture, just tipping my finger against the screen, at the Corniche recently, and I was able to save the image in one of four different artistic styles: black and white, lomo, antique or sepia. The antique, my favourite, makes your image look like it was taken thirty years ago. You can rotate, crop and enhance it before easily uploading the edited image to the Internet. It’s hard to write about the battery life of any of these smartphones without complaining, but I guess we’re all used to having to charge our phones twice a day now. I get the feeling the Z10 battery is a little bit stronger than the one on the Curve, but I haven’t been pounding away on What’s App on this one, so it’s difficult to compare just ye. The BlackBerry World app store now includes 70,000 BlackBerry 10 apps. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare apps for BlackBerry 10 are preinstalled, while customers will also have access to leading application providers such as Disney, Cisco and Rovio. I wasn’t able to find Skype in the app store, even though this was also promised

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TECHTALK Google launches contest, could release Glass soon


oogle recently released new details about its fresh technological achievement, Google Glass. Shaped like eyeglasses but without the lenses, Google Glass works like a smartphone with voice controls. Necessary information is projected from a small, white display near the edge of the right eye. The glasses can take pictures, record video and search the Internet, all hands-free. The search engine also announced a contest for US residents aged 18 years and over. Applicants can submit an explanation of what they would do with a headset, and selected winners will receive a prototype of the product. Rumours suggest that the contest could signal an approaching Google Glass release date.

Yahoo redesigns its homepage for first time in four years

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Playstation 4 ups the interconnectivity


he PlayStation 4 will arrive on shelves “Holiday 2013,” Sony’s Andrew House announced on February 20. The gaming system boasts new interconnectivity, creating an “ecosystem” of mobile and non-mobile devices like tablets, phones and televisions. Basically, you’ll be able to access your PlayStation Network on most of the electronics you own. Streaming and downloading from the web will be an integral part of the gaming experience. The “DualShock 4” controller will feature a touchpad and three-colour LED lights for identifying players.

Affordable virtual reality on the horizon


s technology improves, video games become more and more immersive. But the dream of true immersion – virtual reality – hadn’t really come true yet, and not for a lack of trying. But now, California-based start-up company Oculus VR might be bringing that dream to the hands of gamers across the world. The Oculus Rift headset, a contraption not until a bulky, black set of protective goggles, allows users to experience a 3D computerised world the way they see their own. If the user turns their head left, for example, the screen inside the headset will move with them, showing more of the virtual reality. Oculus VR estimates that its product will cost between QR730 and QR1090, putting it in the same price range as popular home gaming consoles. Around April Oculus begins shipping its first test products to game developers, but no one knows for sure when it’ll be available in stores.

Tablet aimed solely at women launched from Dubai


urostar recently unveiled the first tablet computer made only for women: the ePad Femme Tablet. It’s pink and it comes pre-loaded with yoga, weight-loss, pregnancy and cooking applications, in addition to Google, Skype, Twitter and others. “It makes a perfect gadget for a woman who might find difficulties in terms of downloading these applications, and it is a quick reference,” Mani Nair, Associate Vice-President for Marketing with Eurostar, told The Media Line. Priced at around QR690, the tablet has a 23-centimetre screen, and comes with an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and 16 GB of ROM. It has received mixed feedback from women in the Gulf, according to The Media Line.

Microsoft launches “scroogle” campaign


fraid you’re getting “scroogled” by using Gmail, Google’s free e-mail service? Probably not, but Microsoft is convinced you are, according to its new US-wide campaign against a well-known Google issue – the scanning of users’ e-mails in order to place more personalised ads on their

screens. “Don’t get scroogled by Gmail,” Microsoft declares, utilising a weird-sounding combination of “Google” and an indelicate term for getting taken advantage of in the hope that the word will either catch on or at least garner some interest in its argument. Microsoft cites a study it commissioned, that says that of polled consumers, 30% knew that their e-mails were read for advertisement purposes, and 88% did not approve of it., Microsoft’s own e-mail provider, launched a website called to promote the concept.

MARCH 2013

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DJwE d o h a j e w e l l e r y a n d w a t c h e s e x h i b i t i o n

A glorious affair The tenth edition of the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE) 2013 opened at the Doha Exhibition Centre on February 25. With high-end luxury goods increasing in value, this exhibition is now rated as the one of the world’s top three jewellery shows. It was opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani in the presence of Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Chairman HE Eng. Issa Al-Mohannadi. The seven-day exhibition was organised by the QTA and sponsored by Qatar National Bank (QNB). Featuring over 530 international and regional brands of the finest jewellery and luxury timepieces, the exhibition dazzled with the world’s most glamorous and fashionable marques.

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Images from the opening day of the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition include (right) the Vice-Chairman and Executive Vice-President of Ali Bin Ali Group, Nabeel Ali Bin Ali; (left) the cutting of the ribbon by the Prime Minister and (below) the cutting of the giant cake to mark the tenth anniversary of the exhibition.

march 2013

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DJwE d o h a j e w e l l e r y a n d w a t c h e s e x h i b i t i o n

Jean-Marc Jacot, Parmigiani CEO (second from left) and Nassr Al-Majed, Al-Majed Jewellery (far right) field questions at DJWE 2013.

Parmigiani Fleurier Parmigiani Fleurier unveiled a special table clock piece in collaboration with Lalique, the renowned French glass design brand. According to Parmigiani CEO Jean-Marc Jacot: “Because of the complex and dedicated crafting process, we only make about 15 pieces a year. It is a combination of horology and fine glass crafting that brings the best of these two worlds together. We think that it is important to work with different brands that tell different stories, but of course it has to be of excellent craftsmanship and heritage.” Doha to Jacot is as important as Paris or London, and it is a level playing-field. “Our customers here

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are just like anywhere else,” he says, “which is why we chose to premiere this unique creation with Lalique here instead of Basel or [the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva]. A lot of the brands feel that it is important to debut their new pieces at these major established exhibitions, but we feel that it is equally important to present at DJWE, which is now the strongest platform in the region. We have been working on increasing our subsidiaries in the past year, and this year we will be opening in Dubai in September in order to support the demand of the Middle Eastern market,” he says. Nasr Al-Majed, representing

Al-Majed Jewellery, says: “We thank Parmigiani Fleurier for acknowledging that our market is now on an international level and on par with the rest of the world. Qatari clients are among the most luxurious in the world, and every year we have been recording an increase in revenue. We expect 2013 to have a fantastic outlook as always, with Parmigiani Fleurier’s classic collections being a favourite of our clients. “Other than the special table clock piece, we are also looking forward to the brand’s new collection released with the Brazil Football Federation, which we feel will work very well at DJWE 2013,” he says.

Vacheron Constantin:

The epitome of classicism This 258-year-old Geneva watch company doesn’t consider the recent “Vintage” trend in its designs. In its view, why sell new creations that look like old ones? When a watchmaker considers a time period, the watch loses its timeless appeal. It becomes a trend, instead of a memorable item to be passed down through generations. “We have seen a comeback to a classic watch – classicism,” says Christian Selmoni, Artistic Director at Vacheron Constantin. “But it has to be contemporary, meaning that you have to adapt this classic look to the moment of now.” In the 1950s luxury watches usually measured 33 millimetres, but now they’ve expanded to an average of 40 to 42 millimetres. Vacheron Constantin recently presented three new collections at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2013 exhibition in Geneva in January. It brought the newly premiered timepieces to Doha, including contemporary, sporty additions to the Overseas collection, such as the Overseas Chronograph, a self-winding watch with applied hour markers in 18K gold and a blue lacquered dial.

Vincent Kauffmann, Design Director and Christian Selmoni, Artistic Director

The Overseas Chronograph watch has selfwinding mechanical movement and a blue lacquered dial.

Mouawad stuns patrons yet again Mouawad, the luxury jewellery and timepieces company, revealed for the first time its latest masterpiece creation – the Mouawad L’Incomparable Diamond Necklace, featuring 91 diamonds totalling 635.40 carats in weight. The impressive diamond necklace embraces the Incomparable diamond, the world’s largest internally flawless diamond graded by the GIA, weighing 407.48 carats.

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DJwE d o h a j e w e l l e r y a n d w a t c h e s e x h i b i t i o n

Louis Ferla, Managing Director of the Middle East and India


A regional favourite One of the most popular jewellers in the region, Cartier has been present since the beginning of the DJWE. It showcased more than 150 unique pieces for 2013 – emeralds, sapphires and other coloured stones gleamed alongside white and yellow diamonds. Several of the brand’s new pieces featured the “hidden watch” technique. Delicate, jewelled bracelets and rings held watches inside easily accessible compartments. One pendant consisted of a cylinder and a small timepiece on the bottom. Take the pendant, turn it upside down, and voila! – you know what time it is. Though Cartier has found success in the region for 15 years, it doesn’t design any jewellery to be marketed specifically to this clientele. “When you start designing specifically for regions, you start to lose your identity,” says Louis Ferla, the brand’s managing director for the Middle East and India. “We have in our history a strong influence of a different culture. It’s recognisable, and for us it’s very important.” Cartier is available in Qatar through Ali Bin Ali Watches and Jewellery.

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Cartier showcased 150 unique pieces of jewellery for the exhibition


Made for Qatar Custom-made for the busy traveller, Vogard has designed the world’s first and only watch that provides time zone adjustment via its bezel, featuring 24 major cities to choose from. The company unites the fine art of Swiss watch-making with carefree luxury travel through its innovative Timezoner system. The bezel is set in the national colour of Qatar and has Doha engraved on it. The dial has 60 rubies and 60 diamonds to indicate day and night. The lever has a total of 20 diamonds and 27 rubies to symbolise the national flag of Qatar on the side. There are three bracelets available: white rubber strap, maroon leather strap and metal bracelet with 144 diamonds. This timepiece in finest steel has been specifically hand-crafted for the DJWE 2013 and is set with a Michael Vogt, total of 322 precious stones. Createur, Vogard SA


The fusion of music and craftwork Music boxes are traditionally known as small, fragile keepsakes given to children by elderly relatives. When you open them, or wind them up, they play a tune. But since Kurt Kupper took over as CEO of Reuge five years ago, he has made it his mission to change that perception. While Qatari consumers can still walk into Ali Bin Ali, flip through a catalogue and order a traditional music box or singing bird box, transactions like these only make up half of Reuge’s sales. The other half come from completely personalised works commissioned as gifts. From a combination of music box and flat screen television featuring a Harry Potter theme to a Ferrari engine-shaped box given as a gift to Ferrari’s owner for the company’s 60th anniversary, Reuge deals in very unique luxury creations. Combining the classic tradition of music boxes with the age of technology, Reuge has recently debuted a piece called the iReuge. “You put your iPhone [on a space next to the music cylinder], and it will simply charge by induction,” Kupper says. “And then when you get a phone call or a message, because your phone will vibrate, the music box starts playing.” Available in Qatar through Ali Bin Ali Watches and Jewellery. Kurt Kupper, Chief Executive Officer, Reuge

Van Cleef & Arpels

Jewellery with a spot of luck Van Cleef & Arpels’ new collection is called Palace of Luck. Showcased brilliantly in the brand’s Doha exhibition stand, Palace of Luck’s themes are enchantment and positivity, characterised by symbols of luck in nature. “I think luck is a true positive vision of life, which is a strong value and principle at Van Cleef & Arpels,” says Alban Belloir, the brand’s managing director for the Middle East and India. The collection includes Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature transformable jewellery. One necklace, which features two elements of luck – the strong tiger and the more delicate butterfly – includes a detachable piece that can be worn as a clip. One

Alban Belloir, Managing Director of the Middle East and India, Van Cleef & Arpels animal rests on each side of the neck, giving the piece an asymmetrical look not uncommon in Van Cleef & Arpels’ works. Qatar is a very strong market in terms of demand for jewellery, Belloir says. “When you see the names and the signatures which are gathered

in this fair, and the kinds of pieces and collections which are brought into this event, you can use that to measure the level of expectation and maturity in the market, so we really want to be seen as a leader here.” Available in Qatar through Ali Bin Ali Watches and Jewellery.

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DJwE d o h a j e w e l l e r y a n d w a t c h e s e x h i b i t i o n Sevan Bicakci

Magical Gems The famous Turkish jewellery designer Sevan Bicakci is known as the “King of Rings” for his exquisite creations, and he presented 150 unique jewels including rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and cuff-links at the DJWE 2013. “Although all are equally important in terms of design value,” says Emre Dilaver, Creative Director at Sevan Bicakci, “one ring called the ‘Sheltering Sky’ may stand out as the only solitaire piece with a 4.45 ct diamond in its centre and the highest price point within the collection. It portrays Istanbul’s monuments and the skies above, and is one of Sevan Bicakci’s rare solitaire ring approaches.” Bicakci doesn’t have a dealer in Qatar, so the exhibition is the one and only opportunity to present here. The only chance to see the whole spectrum of Bicakci’s work is in his boutiques in Istanbul or Dubai. “As we cater to a niche audience, it is good to keep our collectors

Emre Dilaver, Creative Director, Sevan Bicakci

updated on the most recent offspring of the atelier. They would not only buy some new pieces on the spot, but they would also mark a visit to the boutiques in Dubai and Istanbul into their schedules,” says Dilaver. The Middle East is an important market for Sevan Bicakci as his work is very much shaped by Istanbul’s

cultural heritage, so it is understood in the Middle East. The collections held by some Middle East customers are therefore much bigger than what a European or an American collector would own. “Although Qatar is potentially a very strong market, we cater to single persons rather than markets,” Dilaver says.

A cut above


Julien-Vincent Brunie, International Director, Private Sales, Christie’s

The famous fine arts auction house, Christie’s, is currently the world’s largest art and luxury dealer. Christie’s has its main headquarters on London’s King Street and in Rockefeller Plaza, New York. It is owned by Groupe Artémis, the holding company of Francois-Henri Pinault. “We are proud to have selected special pieces from around the world,” said JulienVincent Brunie, International Director, Private Sales. “Some of these items cannot be found any more. For instance there are emeralds which were sourced from a mine that doesn’t produce stones of the same quality any more. Visitors will find a brooch made for the Emperor of France in 1855, and a Cartier necklace from 1922. There are some exquisite tiaras also on display.” Pictured left: a pair of pearl and diamond ear pendants by Harry Winston, a diamond and coloured diamond demi-parure by Boucheron (formerly the property of Princess Salimah Aga Khan), a v-shaped diamond necklace and a coloured pink 5.13ct diamond ring.

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High-end luxury handset


Steve Amstutz, Global Commercial Director, Vertu

Vertu, the makers of luxury mobile phones, recently launched Vertu Ti, a new contemporary smartphone powered by Android. Based around a titanium case that has been used for its strength, elegance and low weight, the Ti also uses leather accents as well as the largest sapphire crystal screen ever engineered at 3.7 inches. Steve Amstutz, the Global Commercial Director for Vertu says that the new Vertu Ti is the first device launched since the acquisition of Vertu by EQT. Vertu Ti is the first Vertu handset running with Android, he says. This is the first time for Vertu at the DJWE. “This show is very important to us as we have the opportunity to see a lot of the local customers and to showcase our latest products. We have seen many customers showing interest in our brand, but most importantly we have been visited by the royalties who have always shown interest in our brand,” says Amstutz. The Middle East market creates slightly less than 10% of Vertu’s worldwide business, and Qatar is its secondlargest market in this region. However, many Qataris are buying products outside the country, and these are not included in this market share. “We will also be opening a mono brand Vertu boutique with dedicated staff and services in April, which will highlight the commitment of Vertu and its interest in this market,” says Amstutz.

51 East

Luxury personified Fifty One East rolled out astounding collections from the most distinguished and celebrated names such as Rolex and Boucheron within an exclusive wing. Bader Abdullah Al-Darwish, Chairman of Darwish Holding, said: “In its tenth edition to date, the DJWE 2013 continues to be a beacon of attraction to those who appreciate the craftsmanship behind this incredible industry.”

Rolex Rolex showcased one of its most expensive craft works to date, the Submariner Green Emerald Special Edition, together with the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master, Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona and Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, which were star timepieces at Baselworld 2012.

Boucheron Boucheron had on display the renowned Opalescent Serpent Necklace from the 2012 L’Artisan du Réve collection, with the serpent representing a pledge of

enduring happiness for all Boucheron women. This year, the serpent is re-invented with a modern and striking light combining new materials, colours and technical expertise that make this multiple-wear piece a signature Boucheron creation. Boucheron’s Black and White Quatre collection and Animal collection were also a huge draw for many visitors.

march 2013

Qatar Today 8 7

braking news



Honda adds some fizz to line-up

The 2013 Honda Accord Sedan and Accord Coupe are available in Qatar now and Rory Coen got a chance to take them for a spin around Doha last month.

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braking news

2013 Honda Accord 2.4 i-VTEC Class

Mid-size / Large family car

Body style

4-door Sedan


FWD (front-wheel drive)

Engine manufacturer

Honda K24A-series

Engine type

Spark-ignition 4-stroke

Valve Cylinders alignment

Line 4


2354 cm3 / 144.1 cui


87 mm / 3.43 in


99 mm / 3.9 in

Compression ratio

11 : 1s

Fuel capacity

65 litre

Top speed

227 km/h / 141 mph

0-100 km/h

8 seconds

Front brakes

Disc ventilated 320 mm / 12.6 in

Rear brakes

Disc solid 305 mm / 12 in

Standard tires

225/50 R 17 V


been driving a 2004 Honda HR-V for the best part of six months now, so when I heard I would be test-driving five brand new Honda grades, I somehow managed to compose my excitement. I was interested to see how “Hondas from the future” compared with my own nine-year-old. Probably like comparing Messi with Maradona in a contemporary football setting, but I was convinced I’d recognise some familiarities. Afraid that the Honda officials would see my “power train” and complain about how I maintained it – it’s absolutely filthy – I parked the old banger well out of sight and strolled down to the quintet of Honda machines that were parked up sequentially, or so I thought, outside the Admiral Club at the Ritz-Carlton. The pedantic officials spent the best part of ten minutes trying to line them up at 180 degrees to each other. My mind drifted back to an episode

of The Simpsons when Chief Wiggum and Lou described the way a certain car was parked as “sweet”. However on this occasion I don’t think I ever witnessed so much effort to gain such little acknowledgment. “Maybe this is how Honda operates,” I thought to myself. Speed it up, slow it down So the five cars were all 2013 Honda Accords, just different grades of Sedan and Coupe. Off we went, around the Zig Zag Towers and up the Al Khor road. My first taste of the action was in the Honda Accord 2.4 litre i-VTEC Sedan... and as luck would have it, QBS Radio was playing some Eurovision hits from yesteryear. If Bucks Fizz didn’t come on with their 1981 winner “Making Your Mind Up” about five minutes up the road! Keeping heed of that

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New Accord technologies LED daytime running lights (DRLs) ----------------------------------------------- LED taillights ----------------------------------------------- The Accord 3.5 EX and 3.5 Sport offer Honda’s first LED projector headlights for improved visibility ----------------------------------------------- Smart entry and push-button start included on Accord EX and Sport models ----------------------------------------------- The available touch-screen panel offers convenient control of audio, phone and many other functions ----------------------------------------------- Included on Accord 3.5 EX and 3.5 Sport, Honda LaneWatch Blind Spot Display provides an expanded rear view of the passenger side roadway through the intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) ----------------------------------------------- Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, USB/iPod integration and rearview camera ----------------------------------------------- ECON button with Eco Assist ----------------------------------------------- New MacPherson-strut front suspension improves ride and handling qualities, while also reducing interior noise, vibration and harshness. The new, lighter aluminium and steel front subframe also uses a proprietary Honda friction-stir welding process ----------------------------------------------- New side airbags mitigate the risk of excessive airbag deployment force while eliminating the need for the prior Accord’s Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS)

recurring and extremely annoying lyric, I was able to test the brakes and acceleration to great effect. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, as is electronic brake distribution (EBD) with brake assist, a four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS). From LX grades onwards, vehicle stability assist with traction control and hill start assist are also standard on the Accord. Under the hood As in previous generations, two petrol engines are available in the 2013 Honda Accord Sedan and Coupe. These include a new Earth Dreams 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a new Earth Dreams 3.5-litre V6 with revised VTEC and VCM functions. The base 173-horsepower (hp) four-cylinder engine is coupled to an efficient five-speed automatic transmission. Meanwhile, Accord V6 models feature a 276hp 3.5-litre engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission.

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Although I didn’t quite manage it, the top speed of the VTEC is 227 kph and it can go from 0-100 kph in eight seconds. Each of the five cars has a very capable entertainment system in the dash. I hadn’t much time to get to grips with the functionality, but I did see some options to change the wallpaper and clock! It’s like configuring your laptop for the first time. There was also an in-built and accurate GPS system, which I kept an eye on throughout my short journey. Later on, when I travelled in the Honda Accord Sport, I noticed a side camera on the display – LaneWatch Blind Spot Display – which pretty much made the right wing mirror redundant. Very useful, I thought. So, after over two hours out on the road, and switching cars three times, we eventually got back to our base at the Ritz-Carlton for a well-deserved luncheon. Not before we lined the cars up in a pseudo-parabolic shape, though, and took some more pictures with the iconic Zig Zag Towers in the backdrop. Of course we did

auto news



Rolls-Royce announces immense Qatar growth


olls-Royce Motor Cars Doha recorded one of its highest ever years of sales in 2012. The year concluded with an impressive 20% increase, making Qatar one of the best-performing Rolls-Royce markets in the region. “These impressive results further confirm the increasing importance of the Qatari market for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and highlight the increasing strength of the ultra-luxury car market in the country,” said Mohammed Kandeel, General Manager of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Doha. The car brand’s luxury, comfort and innovative design contributed to the growth, Kandeel said. Newly launched car lines like the Phantom Series II, a contemporary update on previous models, have improved drivers’ experiences behind the wheel. The Phantom Series II line, including Phantom, Phantom Drophead Coupe and Phantom Coupe, went on sale in Qatar in August. The company won’t settle down now, though, said Kandeel. Rolls-Royce is committed to making 2013 even more exciting for its customers.

Rolls-Royce Wraith excels in style


olls-Royce Motor Cars is set to debut the luxurious new Rolls-Royce Wraith on March 5 at the Geneva Motor show. “Phantom-grade” leathers and Canadel Panelling, or the use of open-pore wood, flood the car’s interior with an elegant atmosphere not unlike that of a luxury yacht. The exterior resonates with a similar glamour and keeps its traditional glow and resonance.

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It’s the small details, though, that set the Wraith apart from the rest. The clock utilises blood-orange needle tips, a nod to the marque’s aviation heritage. Even the book-matched veneers and stitched seat cushions speak to the vehicle’s superior craftsmanship. Bearing in mind the care put into making each Rolls-Royce Wraith, it’s evident that that the car is built entirely by hand – just like every other Rolls-Royce that has ever been produced.

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Al Mana showcases Nissan, Infiniti at motor show


Alfardan debuts most powerful road-going Ferrari yet


lfardan Sports Motors, the official Qatar Ferrari importer, launched the third edition of the F12berlinetta at the 2013 Qatar

Motor Show. The model will usher in a new line of Prancing Horse V12s. It has already contributed to an all-new range of 12-cylinder models that have achieved the goal of offering different Ferraris for different Ferrari enthusiasts. With greater power and efficiency – fuel consumption and emissions have been reduced by 30% – the F12berlinetta is automotive proof of the in-depth research efforts of Ferrari engineers. They

have produced the most powerful and highperformance road-going Ferrari ever, carrying a new V12 engine and built around highly evolved transaxle architecture. The car is shorter, lower and narrower than previous vehicles of its kind. Its wheelbase is shorter and its engine, dashboard and seats are lower in the chassis. A new suspension and gearbox layout allow for the reduction of the car’s rear volume. Its new bodyshell and spaceframe chassis use 12 different aluminium alloys, some of which are new to the automotive sector. With all these changes, the car’s overall weight has been kept to 1,525 kg and its torsional rigidity has been boosted by 20%.

aleh Al Hamad Al Mana displayed a broad range of 2013 Nissan and Infiniti models at the 2013 Qatar Motor Show. The exhibition served as a point of access for Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana with its customers. The company was able to communicate with attendees about Nissan’s vision, global and local. Included in the car line-up were the 2013 Nissan Patrol and the Nissan Altima, both popular new models. As an SUV with a long-running history in the region, the Nissan Patrol has been updated to effectively blend ruggedness with luxury and technology with durability. Nissan calls it the “Hero of all Terrain”. Japanese luxury automotive brand Infiniti promises “inspired performance” from all its vehicles – sedans, coupes, SUVs and crossovers. The performance, emotive design and top-of-the-line technological advancements showcased in the 2013 vehicles will continue to be launched across the globe, as they were for the Qatar Motor Show. The Infiniti models on display, including the Infiniti QX, Infiniti JX, Infiniti FX, Infiniti FX Sebastian Vettel and Infiniti G37 Convertible, were chosen specifically to meet the needs of buyers, and represent the best in innovation the company has to offer.

A Toyota for a new generation


he elegant, athletic styling of the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon isn’t the only thing that makes the vehicle a top-tier competitor in the sedan market. Its improved dynamic performance and emotional styling give it an edge-plus a host of

new features. The Avalon signals a dramatic alteration of the chemistry of Avalon’s formula. It is shifting the product’s generational appeal, while hinting at what’s coming next – fashion-forward designs and new product direction. A longer, flowing roofline accents the Avalon’s new look, form-

ing an athletic and more appealing side silhouette. The chiseled shoulder line adds to the fluid design concept. The car utilises compact double-eye PES headlight design, with two square glass condenser lenses, adopted for the Avalon’s low beams. The grille has a larger opening, giving the car a more aggressive look than is common with sedans. “The new Avalon is a vastly enhanced product that utilizes Toyota’s best-in-market car-building resources to produce this new world-class sedan and make a statement,” said Nobuyuki Negishi, Chief Representative at Toyota Motor Corporation’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Office.

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Qatar gets glimpse of BMW Pearl Series Maserati announces new Quattroporte, website


lfardan Automobiles showcased the new BMW line at the 2013 Qatar Motor Show. The Pearl Series was inspired by Qatar’s own Pearl, a symbol of wealth in the region. Designers were charged with the responsibility of delivering a car that matched the Pearl in both glamour and innovation. The eight BMW models on display included the BMW Individual, a creation first introduced in 1991 and featuring the company’s customised optioning programme. It is a collection of specially designed and produced BMW 7 Series and 6 Series Individual models. BMW Individual aims to bring individuality and creativity to the car-buying process. Owners may tailor their vehicle to match their individual preferences by choosing materials, paints and interior trims. “The BMW Individual programme is the ultimate reflection of style and exclusivity,” said Mohammad Kandeel, General Manager of Alfardan Automobiles. “We have high expectations for the BMW Pearl Series in Qatar. The BMW Individual team is dedicated to finding new paints and materials. The BMW Individual vehicle comes fully loaded with features and options permitting the driver to convey their desire for superb quality and unique styling even further.” The Pearl Series includes a Frozen Matt Brilliant White exterior colour and Merino Amaro Brown leather interior with wood trim in Ash Grain White.

Select audience witnesses hybrid super race car

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aserati’s new Quattroporte premiered in the Middle East at the Qatar Motor Show. The sixth-generation car boasts a larger, lighter and more luxurious body with faster speeds than the globally-acclaimed vehicle it is replacing. The company also launched a new website in time for the Detroit Motor Show in the US. The Quattroporte, in addition to improving upon the designs of its predecessor, sets the scene for a new range of technologically advanced Maserati models, which the company expects will increase its sales by a factor of eight by 2015. “Fifty years ago we took a revolutionary step when we successfully put a Maserati racing engine inside the body of a sedan; this idea not only changed our brand but brought a new segment of the industry to life,” said Umberto Cini, Managing Director for Maserati Overseas Markets. “The new Quattroporte ensures that every journey is an unforgettable one, and I am honored to be unveiling it to the Middle East just a few days after the world first saw it in Detroit.” Maserati has also recently announced a new official website, accessible at The new interface sports revised, eye-catching graphics and simpler navigational tools. The user’s browsing experience has been enhanced and simplified. The website was updated to meet the recent needs of the 2010s digital age, including compatibility with smartphones, tablets and other devices.

orsche’s 918 Spyder, the world’s first hybrid super race car, went on display for a short period of time in a showroom at the Porsche Centre Doha, Al Boraq Automobiles Co WLL. The “sports car of tomorrow,” as Porsche calls it, was presented to a select local audience. The 918 Spyder has high-performance capabilities, as well as a plug-in electric module. The vehicle’s worldwide production count is just 918, with each sporting an individual number. Production of the Spyder will start in autumn of 2013, but it is currently available for order. The retail price is QR3,276,100. It can reach 100 km/h in less than three seconds. Its top speed is over 325 km/hr, and its top speed on purely electric energy is over 150 km/hr. The 918 Spyder has completed the more than 20-kilometre-long Nuerburgring-Nordschleife circuit in 7 minutes and 14 seconds. Total NEDC fuel consumption is 3.0 L/100 km when the car is driven economically.

MARKET WATCH LG Optimus L9 is even slimmer




G’s Optimus L9 boasts a sleek, slim frame, in addition to longer battery life. The company’s L-Series of smartphones focuses on designer-level styling, apparent in the premium metal trim and 9-millimetre thin frame. Designers focused on five aesthetic elements: use of the modern square style for comfort when gripping, floating mass technology for a slimmer look, seamless layout for a simpler arrangement of keys, harmonised design contrast with metallic accents, and the slim shape. “The LG Optimus L9 gives our customers an amazing 3G experience packaged in a stylish design,” said D.Y. Kim, President of LG Electronics Gulf FZE. “Customers have the freedom to live an always-connected lifestyle on our 3G network, whether that means watching videos, streaming music or searching the web, without having to worry about overage charges or surprise bills.” The L9 follows the 3L, 5L and 7L released in 2012. Key features include Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich technology, an 11.9-centimetre HD IPS display for bright colours and clear text, a 1 GHz dual-core processor, QTranslator, 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, 1080p HD recording, simultaneous video and photo capture and a 2,150 mAh battery. It also comes with LG QuickMemo, a note-taking application that allows users to add commentary, notes and drawn figures to screenshots and share these via social media and e-mail. QTranslator translates words, phrases and sentences instantly, working from a database that supports 44 foreign languages to 64 user languages. It can also share data with up to five devices when used as a portable Wi-Fi network. Stay connected wherever you roam.

Alshaya Kitchenhaus celebrates grand opening


itchens finally get their due. The Alshaya Kitchenhaus showroom, the largest kitchen-exclusive showroom in Qatar, was inaugurated on February 19 in the presence of German Ambassador to Qatar, HE Angelika Chakarji, senior management from Nobilia, Germany, and Ayman Alshaya, CEO at Alshaya Trading Company. The opening of the country’s first kitchen-only store introduces the Qatar market to a brand that will provide the highest standards in quality for kitchens from Germany, giving many homeowners the opportunity to upgrade their kitchens at affordable prices. Alshaya Kitchenhaus is located beside Quality Hypermarket on Salwa Road. These kitchens are manufactured by Nobilia, the largest kitchen manufacturer in Europe. Each Nobilia kitchen is unique – in-

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dividually planned and produced on highly automated machines. The high degree of automation guarantees a consistently high quality level and enables the brand to offer attractive prices to its customers. The showroom holds the largest number of display kitchens available in one store in Qatar, with 16 show kitchens, offering a wide spectrum of choice from modern to trendy, classical and timeless through to the Mediterranean cottage style. A cleverly structured range of products enables individualised design solutions, tailor-made to perfectly fit every kitchen floor plan. The showroom also offers free measurement, free design, free delivery, free installation and a five-year warranty. Thanks to these five F’s, customers are guaranteed to receive the most cost-effective package possible for the latest designs in kitchens.


North Gate designer wins regional Best Retail Architecture award


n competition with regional real-estate projects during the Arabian Property Awards 2012, the North Gate construction project won a prestigious award: Best Retail Architecture 2012 in Arabia. The North Gate project is represented by local company Equinox SPC. The project’s team attended the Arabian and African property summit in Dubai, where they received the award. It has paved the way for them to compete in the International Property Award competition. “It reflects our continuous vision and goal to deliver an exceptional, international-standard mixed-use project offering a unique point of difference in Qatar,” said the CEO and owner of Equinox. “To have the shopping mall recognised for its excellence in design is fitting recognition for the efforts of our designers and will ultimately benefit both our tenants and customers through the experience they will enjoy at North Gate,” he added.

The construction site and soon-to-be community is 10 kilometres north of Doha, next to Al Shamal Road on a 200,000 square metre plot. It offers 1,000 square metres of space leasable for retail and about 45,000 square metres for office leasing. Within the northern area, it is one of only a few commercial developments.

Wyndham partners with HMC for Cancer Awareness Day


yndham Grand Regency Doha held its first Cancer Awareness Day on February 5 in honour of World Cancer Day, which is February 4. The event, which aimed to spread knowledge about the disease, was hosted in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and its National Centre for Cancer Care and Research (NCCR). “At Wyndham Grand Regency Doha, we have found that Cancer Awareness Day is one of the best awareness activities that we have run for our employees through our ‘Count on Me!’ commitment to be responsive, respectful and deliver great experiences, as it results in a greater understanding of cancer among our employees, whilst also supporting a fantastic cause,” said Ayman Lotfy, the hotel’s general manager. “I send my heartfelt thanks to each and every individual who helped make this event a success.” Before the event, five Wyndham Grand Regency representatives visited the NCCR to give gifts from the hotel to the hospital’s patients. Later in the day, Wyndham Grand Regency and HMC employees participated in a Walk for Awareness along the Corniche in Wyndham Grand Regency t-shirts and hats. Meanwhile, indoors, HMC held free educational sessions for Wyndham Grand Regency associates throughout the day. Presentations covered different types of cancer, how to identify symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures. World Cancer Day is the only initiative that brings the international cancer community together to raise awareness and fight for a cure, support and universal access to treatment.

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Stenden University hosts “Together We Care” event


tenden University Qatar’s Event Management Programme hosted a social awareness event for Best Buddies Qatar, a local nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. The organisation, established in 2008 as one of HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasir’s special projects and partnered with the Shafallah Centre for Children with Special Needs, matches its members with friends and employment opportunities. The Stenden University awareness event, called “Together We Care”, took place on February 3 in the Aspire Dome. The school is supporting Best Buddies for its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project. Activities included art, Cafe Ceramique, face painting and henna artwork. Along with Stenden University and Best Buddies Qatar, the event sponsors were Aspire, Qatar Diabetes Association, Cafe Ceramique, Rawaj Creativity and the Supreme Council of Health.

The day’s hosts, Event Management Programme students at Stenden, planned “Together We Care” as part of their minor offered within the four-year Bachelor of Business Administration degree pro-

Landmark group celebrates Sport Day with “Olympics”


hildren and adults participated in sporting activities like football, basketball and sprinting during Landmark Group’s celebration of National Sport Day for its employees and customers and their families. This was Landmark Group’s second year of conducting its Landmark Olympics. The volunteer committee of employees that ran the event hopes to spread the importance of healthy living among Landmark employees, as well as provide some fun. Other activities included cricket softball, basketball, and indoor sports like jigsaw puzzle, snakes and ladder, lemon and spoon race and glass pyramid.

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gramme. Students in the minor gain practical knowledge of planning and hosting events with industry stakeholders, which they’ll use later in careers in the corporate, hospitality or social fields.

THE One named UAE’s 4th best place to work


he One was named one of the UAE’s top five employers for the second year in a row by a survey from The Great Place to Work Institute. The Great Place to Work Institute is a global research and management consultancy that recognises the best workplaces in over 45 countries, utilising confidential feedback from staff members and an independent culture audit of human resources practices. The furniture shop moved up one spot this year, beating DHL and Ericsson. It is the highest locally established company on the list and was also named one of the top four places for both women and millennials to work in the UAE. The One Total Home Experience, invented by Thomas Lundgren, has resided in Abu Dhabi since 1996.

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How Women Work Around Obstacles The How Women Work conference will tackle a variety of issues concerning women and the way they work.


Most women’s lives are defined by “juggling” - juggling work and family, ‘me-time’, ‘mummy-time’ and ‘loving-spouse-time’, juggling caring and loving with being strict and disciplined, etc. There are things we are willing to compromise on and there are other things that leave no room for compromise - they have to be done 100 %. At the 2013 How Women Work conference, we look at several areas of life and a variety of issues that concern women in Qatar today. On our Advocacy Forum we discuss how to actualise our talent at work and find or create the flexibility we need in the workplace. The forum consists of several women who have successfully created the ideal working conditions for themselves. Lea Grubb Lonsted, HR Manager at Maersk, will also give some insight into the perspective of multinationals on part-time and job-sharing in Doha. We are hoping to also be joined by some policy-makers to join us and add the government perspective. Climbing the career ladder is another ambition that presents women with tricky choices. Our keynote speaker on Day 1, Suzanne Grant, has extensive experience with entrepreneurship in the region and is an advocate of getting more women on boards through her role as an Ambassador of Sit At The Table(tm) (SATT), an organisation that connects women with the resources to bring more qualified women to corporate boards. The topic of women on boards will also be debated, the motion being “This house believes that companies with fewer women

on the board are worse off”. This interesting and highly relevant topic is sure to spark off ideas and comments. Especially as the Qatar National Development Strategy (QNDS) has set the aim to increase women in leadership by 30 % by 2016, while at the same time emphasising the importance of women being primary caretakers of their children - more juggling will be required. Another area that presents a challenge in many women’s lives is personal finance. Although statistics show that women are generally more successful investors, as they research options more diligently and are less willing to take risks, many women still shy away from taking responsibility for - or even an interest in - financial matters. Our workshop ‘Women & Wealth’ is designed to take the participants on a little tour of personal financial planning to show how to tackle the issue. The facilitator, Farhana Khan has many years of experience in operational, strategic and financial management. Another great dream that is often hampered by too many obstacles is that of starting a business and being able to define tasks and times autonomously. Common obstacles on the way to entrepreneurship are: Difficulty in finding relevant and reliable information Challenge of having to deal with agencies and authorities that are mainly staffed and frequented by men Lack of encouragement and role models

In order to empower women to overcome these and other obstacles, we have several offers during the conference: Our “Coaching and Mentoring Pit Stop” will provide opportunities for participants to experience the benefits of having a coach or mentor The Majlis Session will enable women to familiarise themselves with the many agencies that provide support for women in Qatar and to get advice right then and there in a safe and comfortable environment. The 90-second pitches will give participants the opportunity to pitch their idea or service to the audience and to potential investors. The many workshops aimed at entrepreneurs and executives explore topics such as the legal framework of partnerships in Qatar, some insights into sales and marketing and a panel to explore the concept of social entrepreneurship. So how do women work around obstacles? I believe there are many answers to that question, but surely some of the essential ingredients are: Holding on to our dreams and seeing them through Fierce determination coupled with ability to compromise Firm belief in win-win solutions In my experience women excel at the art of creative solution-finding of knowing how to choose their battles. We live, learn and thrive - and we like to support each other while we’re at it

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The Fluffy Tour

brings on the laughs Stand up comedy in Qatar is thriving with a group called Stand Up Comedy Qatar (SUCQ) regularly hosting local shows and attracting a huge following. Their biggest event, The Fluffy Tour was held on 10 February this year. by Ab i g a i l M at h i a s

After reaching audiences in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, this tour reached Qatar like a welcome tidal wave. Not only was Gabriel Iglesias, the internationally acclaimed funny man himself, gracing the stage for the first time, a whole host of other comedians joined him. Iglesias calls himself ‘The fluffy guy,’ say-

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ing he isn’t overweight, he’s just fluffy. The American stand up comedian is known for his unique style and is very popular in the GCC. He performed at sold-out shows in the region in 2011 and 2013. Others comedians on Fluffy’s tour included Paul Varghese, Martin Moreno, Ibrahim Khairallah, Bader Saleh and Mohammed Fahad Kamal,

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the first Qatari comedian and a member of the local SUCQ comedy troupe. The show was produced by Halal Bilal, a South African comedian who is the unofficial Godfather of comedy in Qatar and founder of SUCQ. The show was held at the Qatar National Convention Centre with close to three levels being sold out. It began with Qatar’s own Mohammad Kamal and his rip-roaring lines. Bader Saleh then took over and had the audience in splits. Saleh is regarded as the most popular stand up comedian in Saudi Arabia while Ibrahim al-Khairalla is bestknown for reaching the semi finals as a participant in the ‘Arab’s got Talent’ show. Speaking about his first Qatar performance Bader Al Saleh, says, “The audience was great, they made me want to come here again. It was the first time I got to meet my Doha friends.” He adds, “We don’t listen to the laughs when we are performing. On stage you focus on your material.” With so many youngsters in the audience it was imperative that the comedians keep the show clean. “I make sure everything I say is not offensive. I had one experience where someone misunderstood a line. After that I double check what I say so that no one feels offended.” As for hecklers, (those who shout while the show is on), Ibrahim Khairallah says, “I love hecklers. I love to get feedback from the audience because I get more material from them and that keeps the show funny.” On touring with the legendary Fluffy, Saleh says, “We learnt a lot from Fluffy. On this tour I gain so much every day. Just watching him makes me a much better comedian.” The audience was just as thrilled. Lebanese, Sara Nader, who works at Qatar Airways as a Sponsorship Coordinator, has been following the comedy circuit for a while now. “Most of the comedians bring material that you can relate to as an Arab and an expatriate. We really enjoy it and we come with friends and family.” She adds, “I’m a big fan of comedy. I grew up in Qatar since I was seven. I’ve seen Gabriel on the internet so I’m expecting big Fluffy things. The hall is full and that proves that there’s a growing interest.” Indian Comedian Paul Verghese travelled from Texas to Qatar. He has performed with

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the ultra famous comedian, Russell Peters and has won the ‘Funniest Comic in Dallas’ in 2009. He said, “This is my first trip to the Middle East and to Doha. I didn’t know what to expect. You assume that the references in your material may not transfer to the audience. When you get so much positive feedback from the audience, that’s just great. I love the fact that here if a line doesn’t work, everyone is quiet. There is no booing. There’s such a respect for the artist. They appreciate the performance.” On performing with Peters, Varghese says, “I met him around three years into doing stand up comedy so just as a newcomer to watch him was great for me. Russell Peters is the ground breaker. He is the first real comedian to really get so famous with

stand up.” After what seemed like an endless wait post the show, we get exclusive access to the Fluffy man himself. He was naturally exhausted but keeps the one liner’s coming. Speaking about his first show in Qatar he says, “I was overwhelmed by the level of interaction with the audience. You could hear people chanting and repeating the lines. People were familiar with my older material. People knew what to expect. I live on the other side of the planet. Comedy is very new here, so the fact that it’s at this level in its infant stages, is huge.” He adds, “To have young people here is very important for me. Because you know they are going to grow up and be like, “This was the first comic I went to see and I’m going to take my kid to see him too.”

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doha diary

SDC Partners With ExxonMobil for 8th Gala Dinner

UCL exhibition showcases 3D laser-scanned replicas of artifacts



ocial Development Center (SDC), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, partnered with ExxonMobil in Qatar to host its 8th Gala Dinner on January 29, 2013. The Gala Dinner is one of the centre’s most anticipated charity events and is celebrated for raising funds that are channelled to SDC’s key community development initiatives. Amal Al-Mannai, Executive Director of SDC, said, “SDC’s Annual Gala Dinner is more than just a fundraising event; it is a way to bring together the best of different worlds and has a hugely positive impact on the community. And therefore, we are excited to announce our partnership

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with ExxonMobil today, for together, we are combining our expertise and resources to create valuable entrepreneurial opportunities for aspiring individuals in Qatar.” Donations collected at the 8th Gala Dinner will be allocated to support SDC’s entrepreneurial programmes, including Tanmiya, a development programme to support small and medium enterprises; Rasameel funds to support entrepreneurs; Badr. Wa Int Gadr, a leading programme which offers full entrepreneurship support to individuals and families throughout the country, as well as a new programme targeted at young Qatari entrepreneurs to provide them with small pilot projects and supporting them through expert guidance.

niversity College London allowed Qatar-dwellers a look at 3D scans of ancient artifacts during its inaugural exhibition, 3D Encounters: “Where Science Meets Heritage”. These state-of-the-art digital replicas of artifacts like stone vessels, combs and even an ancient Egyptian’s skull can give museums, archaeologists and conservationists the opportunity to study objects that are on display thousands of kilometres away. “Over the past five years, the (UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London) and UCL Department of Geomatic Engineering have worked together to examine the use of 3D imaging technologies, specifically photogrammetry and laser scanning, to make museum collections more accessible and engaging,” said Professor Thilo Rehren, Director of UCL Qatar. Visitors can view the exhibition on the second floor of the Georgetown University building at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Education City during working hours, from 8am to 5pm.

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A message of HOPE


CU-Qatar art students learned about mouth and foot painting techniques during a Message of Hope activity on February 6. The sophomores and juniors of VCUQatar’s Painting and Printmaking classes met with Manji Lal Ramani (mouth artist) and Manoj Bhingare (mouth and foot artist) from Hope Qatar, a centre that promotes the talents and skills of children with special needs. Five artists with Hope Qatar who have

lost the use of their hands brush paint onto canvases to create magnificent landscapes and colourful swirls using only their feet or mouths. As part of the 2012-2013 programme, two of these artists, Ramani and Bhingare, spoke about their creativity and demonstrated it. Meanwhile, the VCU students were given the chance to try painting without their hands, too. The students’ mouth and foot art was displayed along with the artists’ work at the HBKU Student Centre Gallery until February 14.

Qataris graduate from first Ras Laffan outreach programme Ninety-three Qatari nationals graduated in February from the pilot phase of the Ras Laffan Industrial City Community Outreach Programme (RLIC-COP). The programme started in November with the Northern Community Skills Development Project for English Language Training in Al Khor. The founding energy companies, Qatar Petroleum, Qatargas, RasGas, Qatar Shell, Dolphin Energy Limited, Oryx GTL and Al Khaleej Gas, are

offering free courses to nationals, in order to help meet the needs of the northern communities. “The (project) supports the Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-16, which aims to build the knowledge and skills of the local populations so as to foster social development,” said Erhama Al-Kaabi, Employee Development and Welfare Group Manager of RasGas Company Limited (RasGas).

Four Seasons Doha VP promoted to Global Spa Task Force


he Four Seasons hotel company just gained a new leader for its 20-member Global Spa Task Force: Simon Casson, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Doha. “I believe that in addition to returning to the same Four Seasons spas where they have already received excellent service, our guests are travelling the world with the knowledge that wherever they go, the

experience will be a distinct reflection of the locale,” Casson said. While taking on the new role, he’ll also keep his title as the Doha hotel’s regional vice president and general manager. Looking to the future of the company’s spa society, Casson has several key areas he wants to focus on. He said, “Employee career development, customisation, facilities and extending the spa experience “beyond the walls” of the spa, are just some of it.”

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Omar Sosa jams jazzstyle with Doha


Grammy-nominated composer and pianist, Omar Sosa, headlined the latest Jazz Afternoon Tea event in the St Regis Doha on February 16. The afternoon session, including smooth rhythms and big band melodies with multicultural themes mixed in, was geared towards families. Sosa, a Cuban musician whose work blends traditional jazz and Afro-Cuban techniques, said his aim was to introduce them to different styles of jazz music. “Music is for everybody, and it was a delight to welcome some young people and families to the Jazz Afternoon Tea to help us broaden the appeal of jazz music,” Sosa said.

Heralding an era of healthy eating

Nasser Al-Kuwari, Salad Boutique Qatar, Mohammad Qabazard, President & CEO, Salad Boutique, AND Ghadeer Khajah, Managing Partner, Salad Boutique


alad Boutique Qatar (SBQ) is the country’s first-ever restaurant specialising in serving salads as a main course. The unique bistro, ideally located at Aspire Zone, celebrated its grand opening inviting VIPs and food lovers to try its food prepared with passion and served as a ‘piece of art’. SBQ serves over 100 different varieties of salads, in all flavours and textures; each of its recipes is prepared from “personal experiences, travels and international world of taste and ingredients, creating a menu that is probably one of the most exhaustive and diverse in range” according to the owners.

“We made this”

New appointment at Ritz

Zee Bassila has joined as the new Director of Sales and Marketing of the Ritz Carlton Doha. he will lead the sales and marketing division of the 374-room hotel.

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The Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar presents “WEMADETHIS.ES” an exhibition curated by Héctor Ayuso. The exhibition is scheduled from February 17 to March 20, 2013 the Gallery at VCUQatar. Now, for the first time the association between Spain’s Arts and Culture and Héctor Ayuso allows an in depth look at an all-new generation of Spanish visual creators. The artists and studios participating in the exhibition are: Alex Trochut, Andreu Balius, Atipo, Brosmind, Dvein, Folch Studio, Kike Besada, La Camorra, Lo siento, Marta Cerdá, Mr. Oso, Pablo Abad, Physalia, Ritxi OstŠriz, Serial Cut, Toormix and Vasava.

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National Sport Day sponsors fitness and fun Qatar celebrated the second National Sport Day on Tuesday, February 12. Public and private events populated the day of activities, during which families could gather throughout Doha to play games and participate in competitive sports. HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani celebrated the day at Um Ethnaytein, taking a ride on a purebred Arabian camel in the morning. He was accompanied by HH the Special Adviser to HH the Emir, Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani.






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Komodo dragons, Komodo Island, Indonesia


Landing on Komodo, you step back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth for, as ancient maps reported, “Here be dragons”! This mountainous volcanic island is home to the world’s largest living lizard – the Komodo dragon. You can hike to a viewpoint at Banugulung and watch as park rangers feed goat carcasses to the lizards, some of which are more than 3 metres long. Planning: Komodo is reached by boat from Bima (on eastern Sumbawa) or Labuan Bajo (on western Flores).


Grizzly bears, Alaska


Snow monkeys, Chubu region, Japan


Monarch butterflies, Sierra Chincua, Mexico




Community Baboon Sanctuary, Belize


Giant pandas, Shaanxi province, China


Humpback whales, Rurutu, French Polynesia

Right whales, Bay of Fundy, Canada

Grizzlies like salmon. In mid-July and again in mid-August and September, grizzlies make for Alaskan rivers to hook out the fish with their formidable claws. The bears gather in large numbers at rapids and pools, sometimes fighting for the best sites. McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, and Fish Creek, near Hyder, have viewing platforms. Planning: Most fishing sites are accessed by chartered light aircraft and a hike. Hyder is off the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Every autumn, millions of North American monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles to the oyamel fir forests of the Transvolcanic Mountain Range, in the state of Michoacan, to overwinter. They cluster together on tree trunks and bushes, and on the ground on Sierra Chincua and four neighbouring hills that make up the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Planning: Chincua is one of two hills in the reserve open to the public from November through March.

Black howler monkeys are called “baboons” in Creole. Two hundred landowners have pledged to protect their local population, an initiative started at Bermudian Landing and now covering more than 50 sq km of rainforest along the Belize River. The community offers guided tours and night walks. Planning: Less than one hour’s drive northwest from Belize City, or by boat from Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.

Snorkelling in waters with 30 to 60 metres of visibility makes the island of Rurutu one of the best spots for whale encounters in the world. Between July and October it plays host to calving, nursing, and mating humpbacks. Boats leave regularly from the village of Moerai for three-hour trips to whale-watch and swim with mothers and calves. Planning: Rurutu is a 90-minute flight from Tahiti. The island has limited accommodations, so book early.

Snow monkeys – Japanese macaques – sit in hot tubs to keep warm in winter. At Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, in the central Japanese Alps, you can watch the monkeys taking advantage of hot mineral water bubbling into pools among the dark grey rocks. You can trek through the Nagano Woods to reach the site. Planning: Reachable by a train to Yudanaka town, a bus to Kanbayashi, and a 30-minute walk to Jigokudani.

A sampan trip down the Selangor River on a clear night will bring you to one of the world’s largest colonies of fireflies. The insects, which actually are beetles, flash their green-yellow lights so that the berembang mangroves along the riverside at Kampung Kuantan village resemble flashing Christmas decorations. Both males and females produce light, but it is the males that flash in synchrony. Planning: Kampung Kuantan is 9 km from Kuala Selangor town and 56 km from Kuala Lumpur.

With facilities at Wolong National Nature Reserve destroyed by the 2008 earthquake, there is an alternative at Laoxiancheng National Nature Reserve in Shaanxi, one of several reserves in the misty Qinling Mountains. An ecotourism project has guided treks into the bamboo forests here, where you might encounter giant pandas, golden snub-nosed monkeys and golden takin. Planning: Laoxiancheng is 105 km east of Baoji. The best time to visit is May through September.

10 Wildebeest migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

Undoubtedly the world’s most spectacular wildlife sight is the annual wildebeest migration, when 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras and gazelles are on the move across the Serengeti plains. The animals chase the rain and fresh grass. Along the way, lions and hyenas stalk them, and crocodiles lie in wait. Planning: The herds migrate across Tanzania from December through July, and then pass through the Masai Mara in Kenya in August and September. Source:

106 Qatar Today

MARCH 2013