Friday, May 30, 2014


No, my place is not infested with them. As summer approaches it’s the main travel season in Qatar so there is a likelihood that during your travels in Europe or wherever you could pick up unwanted hitchhikers – bedbugs.

I'm always concerned when I travel about staying somewhere with bedbugs, whenever I get an insect bite I'm always thinking in the back of my mind “was this bedbugs?” (in truth I believe it’s always been mosquitoes but I get a bit concerned nonetheless).

While most people grumble about the temperatures in Doha it does provide an excellent way to deal with bedbugs without having to use pesticides or other chemicals.

Insects tend to have very specific tolerances to heat and their “thermal death point”, the point at which the insects will die, varies from species to species but is pretty exact – below that temperature they live, above it they die.

According to this entomology website the thermal death point for bedbugs is:

45 degrees celsius for 90 minutes to kill adults and nymphs
48 degrees celsius for 20 minutes to kill adults and nymphs (90 minutes for eggs)
49 degrees celsius will kill all bedbugs quickly.

I’ve actually seen lower numbers elsewhere (43-46) but "better safe than sorry" so let's go with the higher numbers.

So ensure that no bedbugs will infest your home after you travel by taking advantage of the Doha summer:

1) After returning to Doha, don't put your luggage into the house. Remove any perishable items such as medicines and cosmetics and leave the luggage in the car (or if you took a taxi take the luggage to your car and put it in the trunk). Electronic equipment will usually be fine but if you're worried about laptops being exposed to heat then check them for bugs and then bring them inside. I usually leave my electronics in the luggage but I've never had a laptop with me so I'm not sure about their heat tolerance.

2) Immediately after entering your apartment remove all of your clothing and either run it through the washing machine (making sure to dry them on high heat, it will be more than 49°) or put your clothing in a plastic bag and put it with your luggage in the car. Shoes too.

3) Leave your car out for the day in the sun with the windows rolled up. As you know cars heat up more than the outside air temperature so the car will easily go above 45°. Feel free to use the car for errands and things but try to leave it parked outside in the sun.

4) In the evening retrieve your things from the car, if there were any bedbugs they will all have been killed.

Simply washing all the clothes in the luggage isn’t enough, if bedbugs have hitched a ride they could be hiding in the seams or fabric of the luggage itself so make sure that the luggage as heated as well by leaving it in the car.

I do this trick whenever I travel from the late-spring to early autumn even if I didn't see any signs of bedbugs during my travels, just in case.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Changes to Souq Waqif

Now that summer is here looks like a lot of places in Souq Waqif have started construction or renovations, probably to be ready in time for the crowds to return in the fall. A few new places have opened or are about to open as well.

On the main restaurant street the building that used to hold the Al-Tawash restaurant is now being converted to The Village restaurant (there’s one on the corner of Salwa Road and D-ring).

Right across from it, where Déjà Vu café used to be, the building is blocked off and being renovated. There was no sign to indicate what would be there when the renovations were complete.

Just behind there, where the Soy Restaurant used to be, the entire area is being renovated. I recall someone mentioning to me that it might become another boutique hotel. If so, there's a lot of work left to go so I figure it will be at least a year before it opens.

Going further along the restaurant street I noticed a sign for a new Italian place. This place is behind the Gulf Seafood restaurant and Café Brux-Tasse.

It's not open yet but it's close, the tables and chairs were already out on the (I assume air-conditioned) patio.

Heading towards the courtyard where the La Dolce Vita restaurant is you pass by a new Turkish restaurant that is being set up.

And in the courtyard itself there is a new Arabic restaurant, Abo Shariha.

There's also a shwarma restaurant that opened next door.

Further along the restaurant street the place that used to hold Beirut Restaurant is still being renovated. Not sure what is going to be there once it's done. (I miss the Beirut Restaurant)

And even the Café Medhaal near the end of the street is being renovated. Since the signs are still up I'm assuming it will remain Café Medhaal.

There's also a bunch of construction at the end of the street but I'm not sure what it's for. Could be related to the Musherib Project but if it’s something else it looks like it will be some time before it is finished.

I also noticed that the Hotel Souq Waqif has changed its name, its now the Al Jomrok Hotel.

Finally, construction on the new parking lot is still ongoing. This will be a huge parking lot between Souq Waqif and the Corniche. I believe it's 4 levels deep and can hold more than 2000 cars, which will be fantastic when it's done.

So there's plenty to look forward to at Souq Waqif. If you think you can handle the summer heat maybe give one of the new places a try, I’m there all the time so I will definitely try them out.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Petition to Improve Conditions at the Pet Area of Souq Waqif

I've been told about an online petition, formed to ask the Qatari government to improve the conditions for animals in the “Pet Souq” area of Souq Waqif. As you probably know that area sells hundreds of animals in small cages who are left out in the heat of summer when the stores are open. The Qatar Animal Welfare Society had always advised people never to buy pets there as they are then supporting those stores.

The petition outlines numerous issues found at the Pet Souq:

Click on the link here to go to the petition

Please go to the link above and sign the petition, hopefully it will help the animals that are sold there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tennis and the Big Four – Clay Results

Okay so this the second part to my post “Tennis and the Big Four” regarding the consistency of the Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray).

For those of you just reading I didn't want to take their entire career because some of them spent a longer time than others on the tour before they had their big breakthrough and I wanted to compare them once they became a top-class player. For Federer I chose starting from 2003, for Nadal 2005, Djokovic 2007, and Murray 2008.

Also, the statistics only include tournaments that the player attended. If the player did not go to a tournament it was left out of the statistics. These stats include tournaments up to and including the recent 2014 Rome Masters.

The statistics are cumulative, so when I do the percentages for a player getting to at least the quarter-finals that means if the player reached the quarters, semis, finals, or won the tournament then it counts. The percentage is basically the odds of the player reaching that stage of the tournament.

I’ve now split the stats by “clay” and “non-clay”, the results may not be what you expected:

First, the Grand Slams:

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray
GS – Win (clay) 9.1% 88.9% 0% 0%
GS – Win (non-clay) 47.1% 20.8% 27.3% 10.5%
GS – at least finals (clay) 45.5% 88.9% 14.3% 0%
GS – at least finals (non-clay) 55.9% 45.8% 50.0% 36.8%
GS – at least semis (clay) 63.6% 88.9% 71.4% 20.0%
GS – at least semis (non-clay) 79.4% 58.3% 72.7% 63.2%
GS – at least quarters (clay) 81.8% 88.9% 85.7% 60.0%
GS – at least quarters (non-clay) 88.2% 75.0% 90.9% 78.9%

In terms of wins there's no surprises, Nadal has won the last 8 out of 9 French Opens and Federer won the other one. Federer has a very strong showing to reach the finals and then is otherwise comparable to Djokovic. Nadal has only lost once, in the 4th round so his percentages are the same. Murray is a weaker clay-court player so his statistics are far worse than the other three.

For non-clay Grand Slams I couldn’t believe Federer has won almost half of the ones he has entered. Djokovic’s stats, except for the wins, are comparable to Federer’s, while Murray and Nadal are similar. I don't think anyone would expect that Murray is more likely to reach the quarters or semis of a non-clay GS than Nadal.

But what about the nine Masters 1000 tournaments, where 3 out of 9 are on clay:

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray
1000 – Win (clay) 17.9% 70.4% 23.8% 0%
1000 – Win (non-clay) 27.8% 17.4% 33.3% 26.5%
1000 – at least finals (clay) 50.0% 88.9% 42.9% 0%
1000 – at least finals (non-clay) 37.0% 34.8% 47.6% 35.3%
1000 – at least semis (clay) 60.7% 88.9% 66.7% 15.8%
1000 – at least semis (non-clay) 57.4% 65.2% 61.9% 41.2%
1000 – at least quarters (clay) 71.4% 92.6% 90.5% 42.1%
1000 – at least quarters (non-clay) 72.2% 82.6% 76.2% 61.8%

Aside from winning, where he was likely stopped mostly by Nadal, Federer’s clay percentages are generally better than his non-clay results. A bit surprising given that the media tend to play up that clay is Federer’s least-preferred surface (something he denies).

I had expected Nadal’s non-clay stats to drop as he dominates clay but I didn't expect that his win/final results would be the worst of the Big Four. It appears that Nadal falters at the semis more than the other three.

Murray is least likely of the Four to reach the quarters of non-clay Masters but if he does his percentages get closer and closer to the other three, his win/final percentages are similar to Federer and Djokovic. As expected his clay results pale compared to the others.

As for Djokovic, overall his percentages are second on clay and first on non-clay! While better known for his hardcourt results his clay results are actually a bit stronger than his non-clay results. It’s only when he reaches semis and finals does it falter a bit - likely due to Nadal.

I’d say Djokovic is probably the most consistent player when you look at his clay and non-clay results.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tennis and the Big Four

I'm a big fan of tennis so have been following the major tournaments as well as some of my favorite players (Federer, Murray, any Canadian). This year's clay court season did not go entirely as expected and questions were raised as to the consistency of the Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray). This got me thinking about which one of these players was more consistent during the period when they became a dominant player. A bit of number crunching later and I have the results.

I didn't want to take their entire career because some of them spent a longer time than others on the tour before they had their big breakthrough and I wanted to compare them once they became a top-class player. For Federer I chose starting from 2003, for Nadal 2005, Djokovic 2007, and Murray 2008 (he didn't win a grand slam that year but did make the finals of the U.S. Open and won two Master 1000 tournaments).

Also, the statistics only include tournaments that the player attended. If the player did not go to a tournament it was left out of the statistics. These stats include tournaments up to and including the recent 2014 Rome Masters.

The statistics are cumulative, so when I do the percentages for a player getting to at least the quarter-finals that means if the player reached the quarters, semis, finals, or won the tournament then it counts. The percentage is basically the odds of the player reaching that stage of the tournament.

Finally, for the sake of comparison of just how dominant the Big Four are, I provide the statistics for what is likely the next-best player in terms of consistency, David Ferrer. Ferrer has pretty much been a fixture in the top 5 since 2011 so I did up statistics for him starting from that year.

So let's see their record first on the year-end ATP tournament.

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray Ferrer
ATP - Win 54.5% 0% 42.9% 0% 0%
ATP – at least final 72.7% 33.3% 42.9% 0% 0%
ATP – at least semis 90.9% 66.7% 57.1% 60% 25%

Federer must really love this tournament, his results are head and shoulders above everyone else. For whatever reason Nadal struggles a bit more in this tournament, especially when you compare it to the percentages from Grand Slams. Murray also doesn't make many inroads but still does far better than Ferrer.

Now for everyone's favorite, the Grand Slams:

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray Ferrer
GS - Win 37.8% 39.4% 20.7% 8.3% 0%
GS - at least final 53.3% 57.6% 41.4% 29.2% 7.7%
GS – at least semis 75.6% 66.7% 72.4% 54.2% 38.5%
GS – at least quarters 86.7% 77.8% 89.7% 75.0% 76.9%

Federer and Nadal are pretty close in terms of wins/finals, with Djokovic third, Murray definitely fourth, and Ferrer not even close. Interestingly when you get into the semis and quarters Nadal’s percentages start to drop when compared to Federer and Djokovic becomes second. It seems to indicate that Nadal is slightly more likely to go out in earlier rounds but if he can reach the later rounds he's more likely to reach the finals. Djokovic has great percentages until the semis then he struggles, likely because he loses frequently to Federer and Nadal. Murray is pretty solid reaching the quarters but then is more likely to lose than the other Big Four players. Ferrer’s percentages are decent for getting to the quarters but then his numbers drop considerably.

Finally, I analyzed the nine Masters 1000 tournaments. Theoretically the percentages should be higher because the field is slightly weaker (not every 1000 tournament has all four Big Four playing), it's three sets rather than five, and in most cases the Big Four get a first round bye so don't have to play as many matches to reach the quarters.

The results are surprising:

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray Ferrer
1000 - Win 24.4% 37.0% 30.2% 17.0% 3.8%
1000 - at least final 41.5% 54.8% 46.0% 22.6% 19.2%
1000 – at least semis 58.5% 74.0% 63.5% 32.1% 30.8%
1000 – at least quarters 72.0% 86.3% 81.0% 54.7% 61.5%

Federer’s numbers dropped considerably! It seems that Federer, for whatever reason, rises to the occasion at the bigger events. His ATP Finals and Grand Slam numbers are way better than the 1000 tournaments. Even his odds of reaching the quarters dropped 14%. Nadal’s numbers improved at quarters/semis and dropped slightly at wins/finals while Djokovic was the reverse, his quarters/semis numbers dropped slightly but his wins/finals improved slightly. While Federer and Nadal had similar Grand Slam numbers for the 1000 tournaments Nadal breaks away and leaps to the top with overall the best results. Murray’s numbers are also generally lower, his quarters drop is 20%, and he is still clearly fourth of the Big Four. Again David Ferrer has good numbers reaching the quarters, but then they taper off. That said Murray's numbers are only slightly better but Murray is way better than Ferrer at winning a final if he reaches it.

But, but, but, say the tennis pundits . . . CLAY! Clay courts favour Nadal! It's Murray's worst surface! There are no grass court Masters 1000 tournaments which would favour Federer yet three clay ones for Nadal! It’s not a fair comparison!

Yeah, yeah, I have statistics for just the non-clay tournaments as well. I'll post them next time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Emir Cup 2014

A buddy of mine had some tickets to the Emir Cup last night so we went. Bearing in mind that stadium events have a tendency to close their gates early even if you have a ticket we got there shortly before 4pm. Turns out that was a bit too early, we probably could've got there at five and been fine.

By the time kickoff started the place was full (with the exception of a couple of areas near the seating where His Highness and other VVIPs would be), and even got to the point where some people wound up sitting on the stairs as there were no seats available. I guess they sold a few more tickets than there were seats.

When I went to get something to drink I could see that most of the gates were shut and a lot of people were still milling about outside. According to news reports it was just like I had expected -- the gates were shut and people weren't allowed in even if they had a ticket because the stadium was full.

Because the stadium was full the concession stands were completely overwhelmed, at least in the area I was sitting in. Crowds three or four deep pushing and shoving trying to buy something at the counter. No order to it at all, no queue. Supplies of some things ran low, I wanted to buy some water but the concession stand had run out. A manager then appeared with a couple of boxes of bottles of water and it was pandemonium with tons of people shouting and shoving to buy water. I decided fighting through the crowd was not worth it so just returned to my seat without a drink. Concession facilities could due to be expanded at Khalifa Stadium as it just doesn't appear to be able to cope with a full stadium.

Other than that it was a good game. I was rooting for Al Saad (I used to live near their stadium so they became “my team”) and they didn't disappoint, scoring three good goals. Al Saliya had a couple of opportunities, and a penalty shot, but couldn't capitalize on any of them and in the end the score was 3-0. Al Saad had been runners-up the previous two years so it was great that they won this year. His Highness was there to hand the trophy to the winning team. After giving them the trophy there was a fireworks show.

My friend and I then walked back over to Villagio to get something to eat and let the traffic disperse, something I always do after an event at Khalifa Stadium. After an hour or so we left the mall and everything traffic-wise was fine.

Congrats to Al Saad!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rising Sea Levels

There was some news going the rounds about how Western glaciers in Antarctica are melting at a rate faster than previously thought.

The issue here is that this melting was not taken into account for most estimates of global sea rise over the next century. The article states that it is now likely by 2100 sea levels will have risen by 3 feet.

What would that mean for a place like Qatar? It’s a relatively flat country and has a lot built up on the coast. I found an interesting website, Floodmap, that can help visualize what various sea level changes would mean.

At a 1m sea level rise . . .

The Pearl will be flooded;
parts of Lusail and Katara will be swamped;
portions of West Bay will be swamped;
about half of the land of the new Hamad International Airport will be underwater.

More shocking is what happens further south, large portions of Messaied will flood with even a slight increase in the sea levels, and the area near the border starts to flood as well (if you increase the sea level rise to 5 metres Qatar essentially becomes an island).

Qatar may need to start factoring sea level rises into account when it's doing its construction, otherwise it's coastal developments will be flooded within 50-100 years.

Try Floodmap out on areas you know as well. Needless to say sealevel rise in Bangladesh will have catastrophic results.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


When Qatar Airways recently announced that it was starting direct flights to Larnaca in Cyprus I decided to take advantage of the specials being offered to go see the city for a few days. I'd realized that when I first arrived in Qatar I used to do 3 or 4 day jaunts to places all over the region (Oman, UAE, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, etc) but I haven't really done that for a few years now and I miss doing those quick trips. I'd also never been to Cyprus before so I figured, why not.

I checked the weather reports beforehand and found that the first day I would be there would be around 22° and raining. Sounded good to me, I like moderate temperatures and living in Qatar you kind of miss rain. What I wasn't prepared for was this:

It was bucketing! Locals told me later it was probably the heaviest rain they'd seen all year. At times the rain was so heavy that even if you went out with an umbrella your feet were getting soaked. Things were fine by late morning the next day and thereafter it was nice and sunny.

I stayed in a nice hotel overlooking one of the key tourist attractions in Larnaca, the Church of St. Lazarus.

Larnaca is not a big city, maybe 75,000 people, but the downtown core maintained its labyrinth of narrow streets where there were some interesting shops and restaurants. Most of the “big chain” restaurants were at the beach so I found myself eating away from the beach the whole time.

The city does have a reasonably big beach/corniche area. I didn't go swimming (and from the looks of how few people were in the water it was probably pretty cold) but there were a reasonable number of tourists sunning themselves in the loungers.

Language was easy, everyone seemed to speak English to some degree. Signs were almost always in both Greek and English (or just English for some touristy things), along with plenty of signs warning you to drive on the left side of the road.

Larnaca is in southern Cyprus, the Greek side (as opposed to Northern Cyprus which is Turkish). Despite its historical problems with Turkey some of the streets in Larnaca kept their Turkish names.

And the town center still has an Ottoman-era mosque that is still in use. I popped my head in on a Friday and only saw maybe 20 men in the mosque, and many of them appeared to be from Africa, so I'm assuming there are not many Turkish Cypriots in Larnaca.

Of course the majority of the Cypriots who live in Larnaca are Orthodox Christians.

One day I took a walk along the nearby salt lake. During the winter numerous flamingos can be found at the lake but the flocks had left by May. On the way from the airport I saw about six flamingos in the lake but during my walk I saw none.

However at the far end of the lake was another famous attraction, a mosque known as the Hala Sultan Tekke.

Apparently the mosque is thought of highly in the Islamic world and the grave of a lady who was close to the Prophet Mohammed lies here (I think she was either the Prophet's stepmother or wet-nurse, it wasn't entirely clear to me). The tomb was inside the mosque.

As for other activities I also went to the small medieval fort on the seaside,

And of course whenever I could ate Greek/Cypriot food at nearby restaurants.

As I mentioned before Larnaca is not a big city so 2 days is enough to see everything unless you plan to lounge on the beach. If you plan on staying in Cyprus longer you should consider renting a car and driving around the countryside. Cyprus is not a large country and the main cities of Nicosia and Limmasol are maybe 50-60km away.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Qatari Wedding

So I received a call the other day from a friend of mine letting me know that he was getting married (in 3 days) and he invited me to his wedding. That you receive short notice is standard for a Qatari man's wedding, typically you find out a week or less in advance. If you want more information on how Qatari men's weddings work, click on the "Qatari Wedding" tag on the bottom of this post.

So off I went, here's some pictures that a colleague and I took. I didn't ask the groom if I could post his picture on the blog so there are no pictures of him:

The groom is sword dancing in the following picture, he's in the crowd, wearing a black bisht.

And here's dinner . . .

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Doha News Community Meeting

Tonight I went to the Grand Hyatt Hotel to go to the fifth anniversary community meeting for Doha News.

It was really nice, they had a big ballroom and staff from the Grand Hyatt were serving appetizers before the talk, Omar from Doha News told me that this was all provided by the hotel as part of the Grand Hyatt’s sponsorship of the event. There were probably around 200 people there.

Most of the talk was a Q&A with the Doha News staff. What I found most intriguing was when they said they had never been contacted by any official or government representative and told not to report a story, something that I think a lot of people assumed would be happening here. They noted that press freedom in Qatar is probably better than it is in the rest of the GCC where there are a lot more restrictions and problems such as people being imprisoned for a tweet or a blog post.

Afterward they announced that they would be starting an annual membership as a means to raise funds to keep Doha News independent. They do get money from ads from their website but it's not really enough to cover their current expenses. You can go to their website,, to get a membership or even just to contribute some money to support independent journalism.

I even won a door prize, a dinner for two at the W. Today was a lucky day.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Auction at Souq Waqif

Last Friday night there was an auction in the square by the Hotel Arumaila. This is the second time I’ve passed by and seen an auction so maybe it’s a regular event. It was mostly Gulf Arabs buying various antiques, vintage items or (what appeared to me anyway) assorted bric-a-brac.

If you’re interested in buying the auction is held in Arabic so if you don’t speak Arabic you’d better bring a translator, otherwise you might pay a lot of money for a coffee pot or something :)

[June 2014 update, I was there around 4:30pm and despite the summer heat they were still holding an auction, I've added a daytime photo]