Thursday, May 30, 2013

Geneva

Currently in Geneva with some friends.



Usual tourist thing, I wandered around the Old City, went to the Cathedral and walked along the lakeside near the Jet D'Eau



They are currently having some sort of referendum on immigration, there are posters everywhere, with bold imagery.



Anyway we of course ate a fondue, you have to have fondue when in Switzerland.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ezdan Mall Update – May 23rd

[the most up-to-date information I have on Ezdan Mall is from August 21st and can be found here]

A bit disappointing, only a handful of new shops are open, definitely not as many as I expected. Ezdan’s target of having 80% of the shops open by the end of May looks extremely unlikely, I'm guessing maybe 50% of shops will be open.

No new food and beverage is open so all you have is Tim Hortons, KFC, MotiMahal, and one other café. I figure by the end of the month maybe 20% of the planned food and beverage outlets will be open.

Carrefour is still closed [update May 26: I've been told by two people Carrefour is open now], WHSmith is still closed. Forever 21 is still closed, not sure why as it looks ready to go:




So here’s some pictures of some of the new shops that are open, as well as a couple of others that I hadn't taken pictures of yet. Neal’s Yard Remedies is open now:











And here's a couple more shops on the “getting ready” list:




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Get or Renew a Liquor Permit



[Note for tourists or visitors: you do not need a liquor permit to have alcohol at a bar, the permit only applies to purchasing alcohol at the one liquor store in Qatar. However, please be aware that you will need to bring your passport or Qatar ID card to the bar to be allowed entry. A drivers’ license or other picture ID is not good enough -- it has to be your passport/Qatar ID.]


[this post was last updated on November 28, 2016 as the QDC made an important change, removing the requirement for a deposit and instead instituting an annual fee. They also added a new email address.]

So my liquor permit was expiring this month so it was time to renew it. For those of you new to Qatar and looking for a liquor permit, or wondering what to do to renew it, here are the steps:


1) IF YOU ARE APPLYING FOR A NEW PERMIT -- get a letter from your employer addressed to the Qatar Distribution Company confirming your name, ID number, position, basic salary, accommodation entitlement (or whether the company provides accommodation), and marital status. It has to be on original letterhead, signed and stamped by the company. You do not have to get this letter for renewing your permit.

[UPDATE -- two commentators have said you need a salary of at least QAR 4000/month to get a license]

Yes, this means your employer has to give you permission to get a liquor license. No letter, no license. Your HR department should know exactly how the letter should look, if they don't then chances are you work for a company that's not going to give you one. This also means that if you do not have a job you won't be able to apply for your own liquor license. I have a Muslim friend who is married to a Christian woman and because she is under her husband’s sponsorship she could not get her own liquor license.

In the past you needed a letter from your employer for a renewal, not anymore. If you are renewing your permit then the documents you need depends on whether any details have changed. The QDC now has a handy guide posted at the permit office, but due to changes from December 2016 ignore the last bit about a security deposit:



2) Prepare to visit the Qatar Distribution Company (“QDC”) by gathering your letter, your passport or Qatar ID, a pen to fill out the application, and some a credit or debit card to pay the fee (they now state on their facebook page that payment must be electronic, no cash). Renewals are NO LONGER FREE so if you are renewing you also need to bring payment as well as your Qatar ID, I don't think a passport will do it. QDC does have an email address as well, customerservice@qdc.com.qa (if that doesn't work try permit@qdc.com.qa), so you might be able to request the form in advance. I found just visiting them not complicated or time-consuming so just going there might be easier. As you'll need to pay a fee you can't complete the licensing process via email so you'll need to visit the QDC anyway.


2a) Fees? Yep, as of December 1, 2016 there is now a fee. In the past you just paid a refundable deposit but now they have moved to charging a fee instead. It is based on the validity of your Residence Permit, and the QDC say they'll pro-rata it if the Residence Permit expires earlier than a year.

1 year permit validity: QAR 150
2 year permit validity: QAR 250
3 year permit validity: QAR 350
4 year permit validity: QAR 450


3) Go to the QDC. This is not an easy place to find and there will not be signs directing you to it. It is in the Abu Hamour neighborhood close to Barwa Commercial Avenue and Safari Hypermarket. If you get a Marhaba guide on the main map it will be in sector F3, called "QDC". Hours are typically every day except Friday from 9am to 9pm. Note that the QDC is not open during the entire month of Ramadan.



Usually you can’t drive your car into the parking lot unless you show them your permit, either tell them you're here to get a new permit or park outside and walk in.

4) When you enter the building you'll see in front of you an ATM and a set of sliding doors with some security guards in front of it. That's the entrance into the liquor store, you can't go in there without a permit. Turn to your left and go through the doors on the far left, which leads to a staircase. Go up one floor, you'll see a small room with chairs. This is the waiting room. There will be a ticket machine that dispenses a number, and copies of the application form that you have to fill out if applying for a new permit.



5) The application form asks for name, address, a mobile number, e-mail address etc., as well as marital status and monthly salary. You have to complete this form for new permits.

One key thing it asks for is your religion. One of my Muslim friends told me that Muslims are not allowed to get a liquor permit but I've only ever heard it from him. Three commentators to this post have said it is possible for Muslims to get a liquor license so I think as long as your employer gives you the letter a Muslim can get a permit.


6) When your number is called you go into the permit office where they will take your documents and your ID card or passport. They will also take a picture of you for the permit. Make sure you're not wearing a hat because when they take your photo it might look something like this:



(Blah, my hair looks terrible!)


And then, if all things are good, they will give you your permit. They print it right there while you wait so you don't have to come back another time for it. You can now go downstairs and enter the liquor store.

Aside from the email mentioned above you can also call the QDC at 4429-9777.



PORK: the QDC is also the only place that sells pork. You do not need a separate license for this -- as long as you have a liquor license you can enter the store and buy pork as well.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Emir Cup 2013


Wow, it's been a busy weekend. Earlier this week the Emir’s Cup had been touring around Doha and it visited my workplace, the organizers then gave out tickets to the game and I managed to get one. A couple of friends were also going but they pulled out at the last minute but I grabbed my Al Sadd team scarf and went anyway (Al Sadd were playing Al Rayyan). I had a good time the last time I went.

So I got there more than an hour before kickoff and there were reasonably-sized crowds wandering around the outside of the stadium.



Just as I got up to the gate the police shut the gate! There were still probably 40 or 50 of us in line to get in. I immediately went to the next gate and it was already shut as well. It was starting to look like the same problem that occurred during the Asian Cup finale a couple of years ago, when thousands of ticketholders were locked out, including my friends and I. I started going around the stadium seeing if there was another gate open. There were still hundreds and hundreds of people who hadn't gotten in yet so if all the gates were closed this was going to get messy. Thankfully on the other side of the stadium the gates were still open so I managed to get in but had to sit in the second-tier. (I later found out through Twitter reports that in the end hundreds of people still did not manage to get in.)

The stadium was definitely packed. There was the odd section that had a few empty seats but I would say the stadium was 98%+ occupied. Here's some pictures from around an hour before kickoff and already it was pretty crowded.





When I arrived in my section it was almost completely empty but within 30 minutes it was full as police directed the crowds to the second-tier.

Dignitaries arrived wearing their bishts. His Highness arrived later, just before kickoff, but unfortunately all of my pictures were too blurry.



Al Rayyan fans were really hyped up, waving banners and flags. Check out the size of this Flag they unrolled:



Al Sadd fans unrolled a smaller flag. The Arabic says “Hamad”, His Highness’s name.



Anyway the game started off strong. Al Sadd scored but it was called offside, Al Rayyan then scored, then Al Rayyan were awarded a penalty and scored again, then Al Sadd had an amazing chance that we can believe missed. And this was all in the first 10 minutes!




After that things settled a bit. Al Rayyan were the stronger team in the first half but couldn't score again so at halftime the score was 2-0.

In the second-half Al Sadd upped their game and managed to get an early goal. I put a lot of pressure on but in the end it was to no avail and Al Rayyan won 2-1.



There was much cheering and rejoicing of course, His Highness handed out the trophy, and Al Rayyan celebrated for while.



It was a good match, and everyone was generally in good spirits. No hooliganism or other hassle that you hear about in soccer matches in Europe. Families and kids were there enjoying the evening. I had a nice time. Shame to find out about the entrance problems afterward.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Learning About the Antichrist



I know, the title seems a bit sensationalistic, but earlier this week I received a text message from FANAR, the Islamic Cultural Centre, informing me that there would be a lecture Friday night. As for what the lecture was about, here's the text (emphasis in original):

Join Sheikh Samir Abu Hamza – THIS WEEKEND - as we unlock the mysteries of "THE ANTICHRIST" . . . .

Well, how am I going to turn that down?

I had never really thought about Islamic views in terms of the Antichrist. I know Muslims believed in the Armageddon or The End Times, and that Jesus would return to help fight evil, but I didn't recall anything about the Antichrist. Clearly they do since there was going to be a lecture about it.

So off to the cultural centre I went.



The lecture started just after the Maghrib prayer and the lecture hall was pretty crowded, I estimate 300 to 400 men and an unknown number of women were in attendance (the women's area is on the mezzanine while the men sit on the ground floor so the men can't see the ladies). Sheikh Samir Abu Hamza arrived and sat down in a chair on the stage. He looked pretty much like I expected, a gentleman in a thobe with a big, bushy beard.



He started the talk with a few sentences/blessings in Arabic before switching to English at which point I became somewhat surprised. The accent was unmistakable.

Sheikh Samir Abu Hamza is Australian.

No, it doesn’t really matter and yes, Australians can be Muslims too, but the whole while it was like Paul Hogan was teaching you about the Antichrist. Kind of surreal.

Anyway, here’s a synopsis:

After a brief discussion establishing belief in the unseen and that only Allah knows the future we moved onto a description of the Antichrist. According to Hadiths:

• he is human
• he is short
• he is blind in his right eye and his left eye bulges
• he has curly hair
• he has some sort of markings on his forehead
• he will appear pious (but he is a great liar and deceiver) and will eventually claim to be a Prophet of God

To tell you the truth I was pretty impressed with the detailed description Islam has of the Antichrist, the Bible doesn't really have much of a description, certainly not to that level of detail.

There was a brief discussion of the end times and how some of the minor signs are coming true, such as cross-dressing, killing of innocents, riba (interest) everywhere, everyone respecting people who like etc. Cross-dressing was listed first, not sure why.
Also something about Muslims conquering Rome as one of the signs. There will also be three years where rainfall will steadily reduce until last year when there is no rain at all, by which point there will of course be a massive famine.

Much of the rest of the lecture was spent telling people that they must be closer to Allah, pray more, etc. Certainly nowhere near the level of "fire and brimstone" common with many fundamentalist Christian preachers, just Sheikh imploring people to read the Qur’an more and to live a more pious life. Barely any mention of burning in Hell at all. Prayers are your weapons against the Antichrist.

One thing of note is that Muslims also believe that Jesus will return during the end times to fight the Antichrist. I recall this from the Qur’an and I don't know how many Christians realize that Muslims hold this belief as well.

After an hour the lecture was over. I suppose for me the most informative bit was finding out just how detailed the descriptions of the Antichrist are.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ezdan Mall Update – May 16th

[the most up-to-date information I have on Ezdan Mall is from August 21st and can be found here but this post has a lot of pictures of the shops].


Okay, so what's the updates for the new mall?


Food & Beverage

I saw a menu at Tim Hortons that listed breakfast sandwiches so if you go there in the morning I guess they'll have them available. Breakfast sandwiches were around QAR 12-19.

At the moment the iced coffees are not available but the place is installing the equipment for them so they should be available soon.

More tables have been added in the mall so hopefully people going to Tim’s will be able to find a table now.

For all of you Tim-haters another café has opened in the mall.



And in the food court the KFC is now open, so there are now two places open in the food court (the other being MotiMahal)


Stores

Forever 21 is not open yet but it can definitely be listed as "any day now".






Carrefour and WHSmith remained closed.



Here's some photos of some stores that are now open




















And here’s some pictures of places close to opening: