Archive for February, 2011

ArabNet is fast approaching! StartUps you better get excited!

ILQ has been supporting ArabNet since it first started last year and this year it’s bigger and better! I’m personally extremely excited!

If you don’t know what ArabNet is, it’s the leading conference for the Arab web/mobile industry, and brings together all the major players in the digital sector.  It also features unique competitions for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and startups to investors, media and industry leaders.

This year, the ArabNet Shift Digital Summit is taking place over 4 days in Beirut on March 22-25. With more than 80 speakers and 1000 attendees, the event will be bringing together the region’s top executives, entrepreneurs, developers, and investors to cover the industry’s latest trends.

The summit is split up into three part: the Developer Day (March 22), aimed at technical case studies for engineers, a two day Forum (March 23-24) for business leaders and entrepreneurs, and a Community Day (March 25) aimed at raising awareness about web and entrepreneurship in the general public.

The Summit will also include ArabNet’s annual competitions: the Ideathon and Startup Demo. The Ideathon aims at turning bright ideas into functional products. Selected finalists will be given the chance to present their idea’s innovation and business potential in 2 minutes in front of investors, incubators, and developers.  The top 3 ideas will receive big cash prizes and support in building prototypes of their ideas!

The Startup Demo supports early-stage startups and helps them grow their business.  Selected startup entrepreneur will be given 5 minutes on stage to showcase their product and convince the audience and judges of its market potential. The startups will be given exhibition spaces during the conference, where they can network with investors and media to build the relationships they need to help them grow.

You can check out what last year’s startups had to say about the benefits of ArabNet here:  http://www.youtube.com/arabnetme10.

Registration for the ArabNet Ideathon and Startup Demo is open until February 27th, 2011!

Also, it’s a great excuse to check out beautiful Beirut!!

For more information, check out the ArabNet website at www.arabnet.me

Loads going on! I’m going to the Qatar Food Festival :)

I’m sorry for not posting an article in quite a while but there’s just been loads going on! (Of course if you’ve been following the events section you’ll know that already).

We’ve got the circus in town at Souq Wagif, the jewelry exhibition that just ended, we’ve reached the end of the Spring Festival in the souq as well, BUT the 2nd Qatar food festival has just started! Oh almost forgot, the Floating Book Fair started too!

If you haven’t already signed up to the newsletter, please do! Don’t worry, you won’t be spammed and the newsletter goes out ONCE a month. :) Just click here to sign up!

If you’re interested in the food festival, then just click on the banner below for a list of restaurants and hotels that are participating.

It’s only 5 – 15 QR per plate!! Driving past today it looked packed, so I’m heading off early :)

Hanging out with Japan’s Team Nexus

I was at the Red Bull crashed ice event (pics and video will be up soon!) and then headed off to Carrefour (I hate that place) to grab some necessities. While at the check out, there were three Japanese guys who were right in front of me. We got to talking and they mentioned that they were over here for the Fencing Championships (which ends on the 12th of February btw!). They told me that this was their first time over here and that they were leaving tomorrow  night so I offered to show them around Qatar and show them a bit of the famous Qatari hospitality. We went off to the Souq, helped them pick out some souvenire’s, showed them a concert where some famous khaleeji singers were performing, took them for some fresh juice and shawarmas and my favourite sheesha place before dropping them home. I hope they left with a good impression of Qatar :)

Inshallah these guys will work hard and become champions. It’ll be great to see them on tv one day and be able to tell people I had a sheesha in the souq. Today was really one of those ‘only in Qatar‘ moments.

Here’s Japan’s Team Nexus.

The Good and Bad of the Asian Cup… – updated

I really wish that I could only say good things about the Asian Cup but sadly it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. (Not even land of the blueberries). I took the time to calm down after the issue with not being able to get into the finals, however before jumping into the hot topic let’s start off with the good shall we?

Traffic:
At the stadiums, it was clear that police were doing their best in order to make sure that traffic wasn’t kept at a stand still. They really did a pretty good job even in areas like Westbay where the Qatar Sports Club is. They also managed crossing areas to make sure that people were safe when crossing the street.

Maintenance:
At one of the matches, I saw that the giant screen (jumbo-tron) was actually damaged, which was quickly repaired the next day. Very nice! I got the impression that they wanted to look good to the world!

Prices of tickets:
Nobody could deny that the prices of the tickets were VERY reasonable. It was great to see that they had tried to drive prices down in order to encourage people to come to the match!

Fan Zone:
It was great that they tried to create some fun festivities. They had games, freebies, and various booths from the sponsors that also had giveaways and games. Would have been nice if there was some food and seating areas to relax and enjoy the fun. The Fan Zone should have felt like a carnival or fair.

Decorations:
The lightings and decorations of Westbay were quite beautiful. I wished that Westbay ALWAYS looked like that. Imagine the tourists that would come.

Signage:
Although I wish there was more signage, I loved how they used different color flags represent the stadiums you are heading off to. (Yes I had to figure that out myself since it wasn’t mentioned anywhere). They also had stickers and signboards directing you towards the stadiums. It REALLY helped. I saw a sign that pointed to gharaffa stadium, followed the blue dots, then when I saw the blue ‘Game On’ flags on light polls, I knew I was near.

Now for the bad… hopefully my little post will be used by the olympic committee in order to make sure that future events are awesome!

Stadium entrance:
This was one of the most annoying parts. It was disorganized to the point that people (without tickets) were hanging outside of the the entrance of the stadium (this was the westbay stadium) and just hanging around. Police should have said, get a ticket (well I guess first they should have been selling tickets), or leave…

The Fanzone:
This is unbelievable but one of the days I attended, I was really shocked at how they were treating media. I was invited over by Samsung to check out the booth and since it was a cold day, arrived in my chocolate brown winter thobe. When I got to the entrance with one of ILQ’s forum members ‘Daisy’ to take pictures, they turned her away saying that she wasn’t on the list. It would have been nice if they were polite, but they were quite expressionless. Cold almost. I could understand if they would turn people away if the place was packed and people were begging to get in, but at that time it was empty! I explained that she was with me and they basically said ‘tough luck’. I looked to my right and saw around 5 people with cameras and video cameras (they were from various media sources), and they weren’t allowed in because they weren’t on the list. WHY DON’T THEY WANT PUBLICITY? I ended up calling someone over from the Samsung booth who came out and explained that I was invited. The security guard said ‘tough, she needs a ticket’. So the Samsung rep walked over the ticket booth and just bought her a ticket. (Great way to treat one of your MAIN sponsors!!). I asked him how much the ticket costs and he said 5QR. Wait a minute… they were holding us back in the cold, stopping journalists from covering the fanzone, all for a measly 5 riyals?? Ridiculous!

What’s even worse is that even though there weren’t many people, parking was STILL an issue! I forgot to mention that when I went over (I think it was 3pm) they wouldn’t let me in the gate to park saying it was full. I had to park at the Villaggio and walk to Aspire Park… Doesn’t make sense!

Parking:
Speaking of parking, at some stadiums, like the Rayyan and Gharaffa, I’m lucky that I didn’t damage my suspension because they made us all park on rocky ground. Couldn’t they have at LEAST cleaned up the land so that we had a parking spot NOT covered in rocks and mud?

Ticketing:
Ok now this was ridiculous. On countless occasions, friends would try to buy tickets online but only be greeted with the fact that tickets were sold out. At the stadiums themselves they were empty! That lead me to one conclusion, they were giving away too many free tickets!

During the Japan V Syria match some Saudi guys said they tried to get tickets to come to the match but were told that it was a sold out event. They were so friendly and really disappointed. When I got into the match myself, there was easily a quarter of the seats that were empty… Why weren’t they selling tickets to those seats??

Crowd Staff at Stadium:
Put simply, around half of the staff were rude. Unfriendly, no smiles, and had no clue what they were doing half the time. When you would ask them where your seat was, they would say “Anywhere”.

Another funny story is I had one of the manager of the volunteering at Gharaffa stadium come out to hand over some tickets to me. When we were passing through the security check point, guards held him back saying that he didn’t have a ticket. He showed his AFC staff badge and was told that it was too bad and he had to go all the way around the stadium to get in through another entrance where his ID could be properly checked…. they SAW him come out of the stadium and hand me the tickets…

Nobody knew about the entertainment events:
There was LOADS going on around Qatar. iLoveQatar.net was the only website that covered what was going on and we only knew what was happening because of some friends who worked at the AFC! They did no publicity to let everyone know what was going on at Katara, Souq Wagif, and the various cultural events in hotels. I don’t understand the purpose of holding these events if you’re not going to publicize! It’s FREE to publicize on sites like iLoveQatar!

Other stuff that didn’t make sense was that they spent a TON of money on Yalla Asian song, but they didn’t use it enough! I mean, why didn’t they play it more often, perhaps get the malls to play it, the radio station to play it more often.

It seemed to me that QBS radio didn’t really care either. I mean, they did make mentions but they didn’t get me excited about the Asian Cup. That should have been a trending topic for them (maybe QMedia wanted millions as usual just for a mention). Then again… I don’t really expect MUCH from QBS radio… you know what the BS stands for right?

What about giving the crowd something to use in order to cheer their team? I mean the Asian Cup committee must have spent a LOT of money, so why couldn’t they have passed out some flags (to ALL countries) to get the crowd excited and cheering?

Now for the BIG ONE.

Dear AFC, why did you have to ruin it in the end? Alright, despite issues and complaints, people were generally quite happy with the event! I arrived at around 5:20pm only see thousands of people stuck outside with NO explanation as to why they couldn’t get it. People actually stood in a que thinking the doors hadn’t opened yet! There was easily over 5,000 people that attended and were confused. I met people from all over the world and many came to my country just to see this final match. That night, I was so embarrassed for my country. Us Qatari’s, the ones that are known for our hospitality and caring, showed them a side that even ‘I’ had never seen before.

The crowd was calm for the size that it was. It didn’t make sense to me why they brought out the horses then riot police (there were no dogs by the way, that was just a rumor) (I saw no dogs by the way, but a poster below said that he did and that they were brought out after people started trying to jump the fence). Imagine if this was England. The mob would have started an all out war!

When I went to one of the gates, I asked the security guard what was going on and he explained that he didn’t know and was just ordered to not let anyone in. One Qatari guy even told me he felt sorry and wished he could do something but would get in trouble for letting anyone in.

One guy told me that he saw a heart breaking thing. An Iraqi family were together and the husband got in before they were about to shut the gate. The Iraqi woman explained that her husband was in and she and her young daughter just wanted to join him. They showed their tickets. The security guard said “that’s not my problem, get lost.” then slammed the gate shut which hit the young girl in the head. The little girl cried as the security guard just watched with no emotion.

That story reminded me of what happened at a Japan match where a friend who has asthma had his inhaler taken away from him because he might ‘throw it’. He explained that if he doesn’t have it, he could die from an asthma attack but the security at the check point didn’t want to have any of it. He then said that he would rather not go into the game than not have his inhaler and said he would leave but the security guard said “you can leave, but I still won’t give you back the inhaler’. It was only when he asked for a senior official that the inhaler was returned.

AFC you are hiring idiots to represent us! A security guard should have common sense! If a woman was concealing something under an abaya, would they have checked? No… nobody with an abaya on was checked.

Then dear AFC, you tried to do damage control. That’s fine. That’s actually expected. However damage control using LIES just makes things worse!

1) You issued a statement saying that there were a couple of thousand people and only 700 had tickets. NOBODY counted tickets. I personally walked from gate to gate and saw nearly everyone with tickets in their hands.

2) You claimed that the gates were closed at 6:05. Well I’ll leave it to people to watch the countless youtube videos. They closed it at 5:15-5:20.

3) They said that they asked people to come early. Well no they didn’t. Never, at any match, did they close the gates early as well. In FACT, if you look at the AFC website (not sure if it’s been updated already), it said the match started at 7:15 incorrectly!

Look the Asian Cup wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t that bad either. I’ve had some pretty messed up experiences in other countries, but… I guess I was just hoping that the people that the committee brought on to manage this would have been of a higher caliber. Inshallah the committee will learn from this experience so that the 2022 World Cup will go off without a hitch.

I also feel sorry for Japan. As people will probably remember the day they couldn’t get into a match that they PAID to get into rather than their win.

I’ll leave this post with a video of the view of the closing ceremony… or at least what I could see from the outside.

Update:
They did do something right today though and apologized to all the fans and offered refunds for people who fill out the form. You can find the form here.

Kuwaiti blogger sued… for a review…

I just had to mention this. Someone by the name of “Mudeer” posted on the iLoveQatar.net forums and I just had to bring this to the Qatari blogging community. See original post here.

The Kuwaiti blog is actually run by a couple Mark and Nat. Two Lebanese expats living in Kuwait. 2:48AM (I wonder what the history behind the name is) is quite a fun blog to read. It’s well written and (like this blog), aims at being fair and well balanced.

Let’s cut to the chase shall we? Mark visited a brand new restaurant that opened up in Kuwait called Benihana (a popular international franchise). They’re quite famous for doing fancy tricks while cooking the food in front of you. Here’s a video posted by Mark that shows you the experience:

I actually laughed when I watched this! He’s just banging his fork on the table. That’s not entertaining… that’s called ‘giving someone a headache!’.

Now the company that runs Benihana has dug themselves a deep hole (the irony being that the owner must be another form of a ‘hole’ to have done that). Who wants to go to a restaurant that’s publicly saying, “Eat our crap and like it!”. They even went as far posting ‘positive’ comments on this guys blog AND they deleted all comments posted on their facebook page. It looks like all they want to do is silence the public…

This case is going to set precedence in the GCC not only in Kuwait. As we all know, it only takes one GCC country to do something and the rest follow suit…

Good luck 248AM!

Freedom of Expression

    Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Qatari Government is a signatory of states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medias and regardless of any frontiers.

    The Emiri Decision Number 86 of the year 2007 on the establishment of the Doha Free Information Centre marked yet another step towards establishing a State of rights and freedom of speech. The decision stipulated that the Centre be a non-profit organization, headquartered in Doha City, and have the authority to establish other affiliated centres inside and outside Qatar. It is worth mentioning that His Highness the Emir issued a decision in 1998 annulling the ministry of information, giving birth to a new era of freedom of speech where censorship was removed from local media.