A special Qatar National Day site for 2011 and new Qatari talent!

For the past three years (well this is the third year) we’ve put together a very special National Day event site. It started in the end of 2008 (when we officially started working on iLoveQatar) and then we got the support from Vodafone to turn the experience into something prettier. I didn’t want to simply give people an events listing page and figured that with all the traffic going to the site (last year we had around 20,000 unique visitors in around 10 days) we should be doing something helpful!

So we started promoting Qatari talent. In 2009 we promoted Rayana, an amazingly talented singer. A small girl with a big voice. In 2010 we promoted Moh’d Kamal, Qatar’s first Qatari stand up comedian. This year we’re promoting a bunch of Qatari cartoonists, each with their own style! So far we’ve got @fatoomworld @wse7en @iba7r and @mana_qtr . Many of them contribute to www.qartoon.org

So if you’re looking for some quick info on what National Day is all about, a great events guide, and want to check out some great Qatari talent, then check out www.qatarnationalday.qa (yep we’ll be using that domain from now on so bookmark it!). Oh and guess what? You’ve got a chance to also win 10,000 QR from Vodafone! Head on over to the National Day and click on the competition tab to find out more :)

See also:

A day to be proud of

Qatar National Day 2010 is coming!

Didn’t we already have an Eid this year?

Quite a few people asked me “Didn’t we already have an Eid?” and it dawned on me that this might be a good time to explain the two Eids (Eid means celebration) that we have a year. The first one happens right after Ramadan. It’s called Eid Al Fitr which is translated as the Celebration of Breaking Fast. It’s a national holiday, shops will usually decorate for Eid, and family and friends gather together. Everyone dresses up in their best clothes and the kids go out singing songs and getting Eidiya (candy or money).

The second Eid is Eid Al Adha. Translated, it means the Celebration of Sacrafice. It’s also known as the Big Eid. The reason why this is such an important Eid is because this is the one that began the construction of Kaaba (the Black Square in Mecca). This is celebrated in the same way as Eid Al Fitr.

Here’s an interesting fact, in Malta, Easter is called Eid. (I thought that was quite cool).

Anyway! There’s going to be some great festivities, especially at Katara! Between 7:30pm and 10pm you’ll be able to enjoy Fireworks, Dancing Fountains, a light show, and laser show! Be sure to take your family and friends :)

So, now that you know that we’ve got two Eids, here are other blog posts which you might be interested in :)

A Qatari’s Eid

It’s almost Eid

Merry Eidmas

Oh and remember, in Qatar, a typical greeting is ‘Eidkum Mubarak, wa asakum min awadah’. Would love to hear more people say it :)

 

Traditions of Eid from QTV – Qatari song :)

iLoveQatar.net (and I) win two awards! update: four awards!

It’s been a tiring three days at QITCOM but I just had to blog about this as soon as I got home!

 

iLoveQatar.net won best start up for 2011 and I won Qatar’s Top Entrepreneur as well! I’m so honored  for winning but even more so I feel energized and appreciate the acknowledgement that the people gave. Not only was it a panel of judges that judged the various projects but the public were the ones who voted.

It was something unexpected.

I’m disappointed with the fact that I was unable to attend the Gala Dinner. It had started at 8pm however I was wrapping up the ILQ booth at QITCOM, left at 8:30 and then was stuck in traffic for 30 minutes before deciding to go off to Central Lounge with Bassam Al Ibrahim (iLoveQatar.net’s co-founder), Moh’d Al Ibrahim (an awesome Director or Producer from DFI), and Josh Weiner (A seriously impressive entrepreneur himself!). We were recapping everything we went through and thinking about all the new ideas we had just shared with everyone (more to come on that!).

Earlier in the day we were Interviewed by BBC World, had an interview with QF Radio and I was in the newspaper for unveiling Vodafone’s latest project SouqIt.com.

We also put together a little video showing off the other start ups and business in Qatar and interviewed some great people ourselves. On the first day of Qitcom, the Minister of Business and Trade came on down to our booth along with Sheikha Mayasa, and commented on how proud they were of iLoveQatar.net and even gave us some suggestions too.

I feel so pumped! I can’t wait to show everyone the final video of what we put together for Qitcom. It truly was an amazing exhibition, you would never know that this is the first time it’s ever happened in Qatar from how buzzed it was. And I’m not just saying that because I won an award!

Qatar really is the place to be right now.

 

Update: I’ve just been told that we’ve actually won FOUR awards. One for Best Social Media website in Qatar and the other for a brand new idea we have to help match quality Qataris with companies in Qatar. :)

The Qatar Marine Festival is fantastic

Oh great, another “Festival” in Qatar, I thought to myself. I’m tired of seeing huge advertisements for events and then heading on over only to be disappointed by poor crowd control or the fact that there aren’t really any festivities at all. That being said, I was never more happier to be proven wrong. I drove through a giant ship’s helm at the East Gate of Katara (that’s just been opened. It’s where Aladdin’s Kingdom used to be) and was ushered through to the car park. I was happy with the fact that even though we were parking on sand, they cleared out the rocks and tried to make the parking lot a ‘real’ parking lot.

I walked on through passed the VIP tent and loved hearing the old Qatari sea chants on speakers and the tiny old traditional huts set up on the left. In front of me was a building shaped like a Dhow, some young staff sadly were more interested in chatting amongst themselves than guiding visitors sadly. Entering, I realized that it was like a museum, complete with a cave-like interior, glass tanks with sharks, hanging giant purple jellyfish and some interactive stations too.

I passed by one area where a kind guide asked me if I wanted to see something cool. I felt like I was being let in on a secret. He pulls out this giant armored crab. He tried to get me to carry it for a while and although kind of intimidated, I acted cool and said I was fine. I had to pull the “I don’t want my thobe to get dirty” line. It was either that or hike it up and run like a girl! After seeing how harmless it was (especially how it ran on the ground like a remote control car) I knocked on its shell. Oh yeah! That’s one point for the human and IN YO FACE for the crab.

Exiting the boat, I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be going so I just followed the brick road. To my left was a childrens area, where you can find games, a live show, and some great educational.. umm.. fun stuff (alright my vocabulary isn’t excellent!). To my right was a sealions pool. That’s where we get to see some great tricks from one of the seas smartest animals. I wonder where they brought them in from?

Now THIS is the part that made me go wow. It involves Pearls, mermaids, oil, robots, bouncing animals, and lots of dancing.

Walking on down further there was a giant stage that we were guided into. I sat down and waited for a show to start. Bare in mind that I was kind of confused and didn’t know what to expect. Under my seat was a bag that had a gold colored metal helm and a few guides. I wrapped my ghitra around my neck to keep warm. The wind was blowing strong and the weather was getting quite cold.

After a few introductions we’re told that we’re going to watch “Secrets of the Sea” and the lights fade out. Now this is a bit of a spoiler so scroll down if you don’t want to know what happens! Disney-esque music starts and we embark on the journey of Qatar’s history. It’s about a young girl who’s being told a story about Qatar’s development and how the country went from an uneducated poor country to a society that survived on pearl diving to the discovery of oil to the focus on education. It was a beautiful story and I loved it. Be warned though, parts are in arabic and there isn’t any translation, but I believe that they did such a great job that whether there was translation or not, people will understand it all.

I loved the use of colors, imagery and when it came up to the discovery of oil part, I loved how a woman’s long flowing abaya represented the flow of oil. Throughout the whole show as well, you’ll notice that the quality of the dancers clothes improves to represent how the country gradually became richer.

You know what? I’ll end it at that. I don’t want to ruin too much of the story, especially since I’ll be uploading some snippets of videos soon.

So what’s there besides the show? There’s seals shows, ball games, beach football, a carnival (parade at the venue!), animation and scientific workshops, a visual arts symposium, sailing and rowing classes, a dancing fountain, raffle draws, puppet shows, marine magic, feature films, I’m getting tired just writing all this stuff down! Do yourself a favour.. check out the Qatar Marine Festival’s schedule here. It ends on the 26th so you better hurry up!

It’s a great festival and whats even more amazing is that its all free. Thank you Qatar for doing something so great for everyone in Qatar.
If you’ve been a part of putting together the QMF, drop me a note and let me know. I’d like to include the names of the people/companies that helped out because I’m so proud of the hard-work put into this.

View more pictures here

View videos here on our Youtube channel.

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.

Asian Cup 2011 Closing Ceremony

Asian Cup apps and other fun stuff

I thought I’d share some fun stuff by various companies related to entertainment and events for the Asian Cup. If you know of any other companies doing anything, let me know and I’ll get it added here too.

Samsung have quite a number of things going on.

First up is the “Samsung Scouter” -
Samsung Scouter is an Android/Bada application which has been specially created for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 to provide real-time commentary on matches, tournament highlights and in-depth player performance analysis and comparison such as pass accuracy, ball possession and sprint speed. The mobile application can be downloaded from the Samsung Apps Store (www.samsungapps.com) for the duration of the tournament. (Is it on the Android store too?)

Facebook Promotion – “Be Proud, Support Your Country”
Samsung’s online promotion for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 is currently running on the Samsung Mobile MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Facebook community. It is a fan-centric competition that allows participants to submit messages cheering on their favorite teams playing in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011. Players who submit the seven best “cheers” will win a pair of return tickets to watch the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 Finals. To participate, please visit www.facebook.com/samsungmobilemena.

Samsung “Man of the Match” Presentation, “Fan of the Match” Event
At each game (in the stadium), a player selected by the AFC will receive the Samsung “Man of the Match” award, which recognizes outstanding performance and fair play.  In connection with this, “Fan of the Match”, a promotion event for the stadium audience and Samsung Galaxy Fan Café visitors will take place at all matches. Using SMS, participants guess who will become the Samsung “Man of the Match” player for each game, and prizes including an autographed official football will be given to selected winners.

Vodafone also has some stuff for people who want to stay in the know. If you go to www.vodafoneqatarfootball.com you’ll find a mobile app, mobile version of their SportzDeck and some other ways of keeping up to date with the latest scores. The sportz deck app is quite fun and detailed too!

So we’re on the 3rd day of the Asian Cup

Well we’re on the 3rd day of the Asian Cup and a lot has been going on! I thought that I’d put some stuff together!

Now the first day was all about the Fan Zone! First of all, let me warn you that I’m sure that parking is going to be a problem. Entrance is 15QR and you get to enjoy all the different fun and games inside. The first day we went though, it was free (nice surprise). That meant that the Jay Sean and Karl Wolf concert was absolutely free!

Click here for Pictures of the Fan Zone

A lot of people also turned out for the free concert. However it wasn’t all fun and games. There was hardly any crowd control as people were pushing and shoving (mosh pit) and the security were useless! (I’ll post a video later on showing how they just stood there).

Here’s a video of Jay Sean and Karl Wolf live in concert and singing Qatar’s Yalla Asian song.

Oh and our favourite Qatari comedian Mohd Kamal was the host!

A true supporter is one that’s there til the end

Now this is only my opinion so I hope that this won’t be a ‘I’m more of a fan than you are’ topic.

Let’s rewind a bit to the first match a couple of days ago between Qatar and Uzbekistan. Qatar was excited. The crowd was roaring. Flames spit out of the ground in Khalifa stadium and there was a fireworks display that looked to be MILES long and visible all the way from the Zig Zag towers.

People of all different nationalities in Qatar were all routing for Qatar.

The match starts.

The crowd is clapping, cheering, and drumming. For the first half, it’s just a giant party and it seems that the two countries are pretty event. However, GOAAAAL Uzbekistan scores against us. My heart sinks for a second. “It’s alright, there’s plenty of time left”, I tell myself. I pick up my phone to tweet “Don’t give up on Qatar yet!”. I noticed people tweeting that they are leaving. I look at the stadium seats and I see that sure enough, some people are leaving. “How can they leave at this time?” I think.

Sadly near the end, the Uzbeks score another goal. “It’s alright, 10 minutes left and it probably is enough for us to score one goal”, I hope. Looking at the crowd, I see event MORE empty seats. It’s a sad view.

5 minutes before the match and many have left. I start to thinking. How can a supporter or a true fan desert his team? You need to support your country in both the good times and the bad. I found myself empthazing with the team. Imagine.. the opposing team scoring a goal against you. You look up at the crowd only to see empty seats. People have given up on you. You feel deserted. All for what? To save time so that you don’t get stuck in a few minutes of traffic? What? So you you came for the fireworks and leave?

Someone actually said that it was embarassing. What’s embarassing is when you don’t have the courage to stand by the team you support. Reminds me of those people who always side with the winning team.

Let’s use the analogy of an army. Why fight for a people, who won’t be there for you when you need them the most. Why do some sports have cheerleaders? Qatar doesn’t have super sexy bikini clad babes on the side-lines with their pom poms cheering the team on. WE are the ones who are supposed to give our country support.

Qatar has given many people a better life, but more importantly it’s given everyone HOPE that this place will change everything in the region, the least you can do show some love :)

Oh and to everyone else, chillax, Qatar isn’t the only country in the world to have ever lost a match.

Good luck everyone! And no matter WHICH country you support, support them til the end.

Asian Cup Opening Ceremony Video!

Here’s a video by Daisy of the Opening Ceremony of the Asian Cup 2011!

Oh and if you want to view some pics, click here!

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.