Friday, April 17, 2015

Update on Gulf Mall

[latest update on Gulf Mall is August 14th, you can find it here]

[There's a June 13th update on the mall, see here.]

[There's a May 29th update on the mall, see here.]

Wandered by Gulf Mall today. Surprisingly, there was a lot of people there, either checking out the new mall or shopping at some of the stores. Places like Centerpoint and Al-Meera seemed to be doing brisk business.

More stores opened, as well as a few cafes like Argo Tea and Starbucks. I think more stores and cafes will be open by next week as some appeared really close to opening. Old Navy was hanging its stock up so they might open soon too. It will still be a while for the food court, IHOP, and most of the restaurants. I figure about 40% of the shops are open now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More of the Old City is Closing Down

Was out for a walk this evening and when I was near Grand Hamad Street I realized that there were almost no lights at Souq Ahmed Bin Ali (across Grand Hamad from Souq Waqif).

Sure enough, it was closed. Most of the shops were empty and the remaining few were clearing out, using hand-held lights as the power had been cut-off to the building.

I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time before the other “Old Souq” buildings are closed. In some ways it’s a shame, they weren’t the nicest buildings but the area does have character, and it was a great place to shop for deals. It was also a place Labourers could go to, they’re usually not allowed into Souq Waqif.

[June 25, 2015 update: Souq Ahmed Bin Ali is gone.]

I also noticed some of the areas near the new Musherib project were also closing, such as the Doha Palace Hotel near the Mecure.

It’s progress I suppose but I do miss the old neighbourhoods. I used to go to Kahrabaa (sp?) street to eat at places like The Garden or Woodlands but it’s all gone now to make way for the Musherib Project.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Update on the Al Wakra Souq

It's been a few months since I went to the Souq they're building in Al Wakra. I figured I'd go and see how it's looking now.

Still lots of construction, but it's looking better than when I was last there:

The Corniche is looking good, and has more restaurants and cafes open. I bet it's becoming popular in the evenings. A few places even serve shisha.

Now I don't blame them for the rest of it to take so long, the place is HUGE. Here's a map, the Corniche is the side that the words "You Are Here" is written on.

That's a lot of buildings! No wonder it's not done yet.

With the hot weather approaching I doubt many people will be going to the Wakra Corniche and I likely won't be visiting again until after the summer, which should mean the rest of it will be mostly or entirely completed. I wonder what will be in all of the buildings?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Souq Waqif Celebrations Have Started

I had nothing planned this evening so I walked down to the Souq to check out the festival.

They had a large area set up with artwork including tables for kids to do things like draw pictures.

I'm not sure who they had lined up for the concerts but it looks like it was fairly big names in the Arabic-speaking world. Look at the crowds in the stands -- and the band hadn't even started setting up. Looks like a lot of people wanted to get there early for seats.

In the labyrinth behind the restaurants I heard traditional Arab music and discovered it was a group of ladies playing the drums and singing. Other ladies crowded around to watch. Clearly a ladies-only event so I didn't go in.

There were also large TV screens around the Souq showing the events.

It was crowded. Maybe there wasn't enough parking after all?

If crowds aren't your thing you could also relax at the new Souq Waqif Park. Lots of people were enjoying that as well but there was still plenty of space.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Souq Waqif Celebrations

So I was at the Souq tonight and I saw they had set up a stage with a ton of seating, I'm guessing for concerts.

And there was another unusual stage setup, with a lot more seating.

Kind of weird, huh? To me it looked like it's being setup for a boxing match. Well, I was almost right -- it's for wrestling!

The Souq is having its "Souq Celebrations 2015" starting tomorrow, including concerts, wrestling, shows for kids and more. If you're interested you can find the schedule here:

Parking should be a bit easier now that the big underground parking lot has been open. I've heard from a couple of people it makes getting to the Souq and finding parking a lot easier.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Talking about Islam

A lot of times I see on the Internet, or when I have discussions with people, this notion that Islam is some kind of monolithic religious entity and that all Muslims are more or less the same in how they practice and interpret the religion. With attacks by groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al Shabab and Boko Haram getting more frequent and receiving a lot of attention many in the West conclude that is how Islam works, and Muslims are somehow inherently violent. When I explain I've lived in an Islamic country for almost 9 years without incident some people don’t want to hear it, it challenges their notions that Islamic countries are fundamentally dangerous places. Instead a quick read of some passages in the Qur’an supports their view (“See, the Qur’an says X, therefore Muslims must do X”). Such analysis is simplistic and misleading, not only does it not explain why the vast majority of the billion+ Muslims are not conducting their lives like members of terrorist groups, it leads Westerners to sweeping conclusions about the religion and could be a stepping-stone to outright Islamophobia.

Last Ramadan I spent a lot of time reading a book on Islamic Jurisprudence, and discovered that, not surprisingly, interpreting Islamic scripture is complicated. One can't simply just read a passage in the Qur’an and figure they’ve understood what's going on. There’s a lot more to it than that, which is why becoming an Islamic scholar takes many years of study. But it was a concept I really struggled to explain, given I’ve only scratched the surface myself.

Well someone pointed me to a recent article in Salon by Dr. H.A. Hellyer that does a great explanation of this when discussing how ISIS in the context of Islam. It really is worth reading to get a basic idea of how Islamic scholarship works and why it is dangerous to interpret things yourself (both by Muslims and non-Muslims).

Here’s some excerpts but really, read the whole article.

[There are around 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. The vast, overwhelming majority of them, needless to say, are not members of ISIS — and, in fact, Muslims actually make up the majority of ISIS’s victims, its most active enemies on the battlefield, and its most prominent detractors.]

[. . . if the Islamic credentials of ISIS were so widely considered as valid, even if most chose not to actually follow them, surely there would be a large numbers of Muslim jurists and theologians that would vouch for as much. In reality, the vast majority declares in no uncertain terms that, indeed, those credentials are void and invalid . . .]

[These are rather complex systems of establishing religious authority via processes akin to academic peer review. Indeed, parts of these systems of transmission, especially with relation to jurisprudence, have become crystalized in various curricula and schools of law (madhahib) . . . . . Modern radical tendencies within the Muslim community do away with such systems. For them, the Muslim community has gone awfully wrong – and they’re going to put it right. In short, they create a do-it-yourself kit of interpretation.]

[When ISIS claims book “A” written by author “B” says “C,” any Muslim can find that book, and see if it does. If this new interpretation appears credible, then readers are often stumped — because they, like ISIS, have generally not been through a seminary education that would put such books into context, according to the systems of transmission mentioned above. While it is welcome for all sorts of reasons that religious authorities stand up and say “ISIS is not Islamic and these actions are forbidden” and the like, that doesn’t address the basic issue.]

[Religious authorities need to do far more than simply say “this is un-Islamic” when faced with a crime ISIS or others carry out. Fully comprehensive refutations of why these things are un-Islamic need to be forthcoming – and put into terms that are comprehensible to the layman.]

I hope Salon keeps the article online, I think in the future I will use it when trying to discuss with Westerners the complexities surrounding Islam.

Thursday, April 02, 2015


So on my way back from Gulf Mall I noticed a tweet from the Ministry of Interior stating that a big dust storm was coming so people should prepare. In all my years of being here I have never recalled the Ministry giving a warning that a sandstorm was coming -- it must be a big storm. So I went home, taped some paper towels over the only gap to outside that I knew of, the kitchen exhaust fan (if there is a strong wind sometimes a draft still gets through it), posted yesterday's blog post, and went to bed.

When I woke up the paper towels had been ripped off the tape and lying on the floor, so that was some wind. And from that little gap this is the amount of dust that was in the living room.

Of course social media and the newspapers were all abuzz with how bad the storm was, there were delays at airports throughout the Gulf, and thick dust everywhere. Because the storm happened in the middle of the night I'm not sure how it compares to other storms I've been in but it sounds like it would definitely be top three in the almost 9 years I've been here. Check out what the underground parking in my apartment building looked like:

It's almost like a fine layer of snow, only its dust. And this was the underground parking!

Here's my car in the underground lot, which I had cleaned a couple days ago.

At least it was somewhat sheltered due to being underground, if the car was parked on the street it looked like people had been throwing buckets of sand on it. For example:

Things had calmed down by mid-morning but there was still strong wind and a lot of dust in the air. Even now in my apartment I can still faintly feel it in the air. Yuck.

One neat effect of the sand was at the new Musherib district. The sand caused the poems that were carved into the walls to really stand out.

If you want to see more dramatic photos you can go to Doha News or just do a Google News search around the web. There's plenty of photos from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE of the storm.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Gulf Mall has opened!

[latest update on Gulf Mall is August 14th, you can find it here. Almost all of the stores are open as are some of the restaurants.]

[There's a June 13th update on the Mall, see here. Some restaurants have opened.]

[There's an May 29 update about the Mall here]

[There's an April 17 update about the Mall here ]

Thanks to the Doha News twitter feed for giving me the heads-up that Gulf Mall had a soft opening today. I stopped by there tonight to see what it was like.

It's pretty big, probably slightly larger than Ezdan Mall, and covers 2 floors.

Here's some of the anchor stores in the Mall. The grocery is Al Meera. I'm a bit surprised Centerpoint opened up here, maybe it and the Mall are owned by the same people:

Food court is not finished yet but it will have a couple of different things, such as Fatburger.

There's also other restaurants and cafes either open or close to opening. Most of them I think are new to Doha (obviously Shake Shack isn't but I don't recall seeing the others before):

Sadly, it'll be a little while for the IHOP. Still some work left to be done. [August 14th update: still not open yet]

There'll be a Daiso, that 7-riyal Japanese store. There's one in Hyatt Plaza and it's one of my favourites for picking up decent-quality little things for the apartment.

While there's mention in Doha News about Old Navy it still has a while before it opens:

And here's a preview of the new shops that are open or close to opening. Enjoy.