Visit of Qatar

I have extensively travelled in Middle East/ West Asia covering almost all prominent countries. During these travels sometimes I used to fly in proximity to Qatar.

The island of Qatar in Arab world has earned name for various achievements. It is regarded as the richest country in the world. Its town planning is world class competing with American high-rise buildings. It also earned name for cosmopolitan culture as people from the world lived and worked in Qatar. It has also distinguished itself with combining world culture with its traditional Islamic culture seamlessly. I always appreciated the independent foreign policy of Qatar. There were several occasions when the rest of the members of Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries imposed sanctions against Qatar. But it successfully overcame the pressure. The famous Al Jazeera TV Channel is located here. Now it is the place to hold FIFA World Cup Football tournament in November-December 2022. I was always wishing to visit Qatar.

History of Qatar

In 1916, Qatar became a British protectorate. The 1934 treaty granted more extensive protection to Qatar. In 1935, a 75-year oil concession was granted to Qatar Energy and high-quality oil was discovered in 1940 in Dukhan. Qatar declared its independence on 3rd September 1971. In June 1995, deputy Emir Hamad bin Khalifa became the new Emir after his father Khalifa became the new Emir Khalifa bin Hamad in a bloodless coup. There were liberal press and municipal elections before holding parliamentary elections. The new constitution came into effect in June 2005.

Economy of Qatar, how its survived sanctions.

Petroleum and natural gas are the main sectors of Qatar’s economy. It is 70% of total

government revenue. GDP by sector, agriculture 0.2%, industry 50.3% services 49.5%. Qatar has the third largest proven natural gas reserve and is the second largest exporter of natural gas. The economy of Qatar GDP is $262 billion. Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) is political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries. They are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Qatar faced diplomatic crisis which began on 5 June 2017 when the diplomatic ties were cut-off with Qatar by the Arab countries. However, the confrontation was resolved by intervention of Kuwait and USA on 4th January 2021.

Qatar has high income economy because of world’s third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves. It is claimed that Qatar’s gas reserve is of the highest quality in the world. It is the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas.

Qatar economy depends on Petroleum and natural gas which account for more than 70% of total government revenue, more than 60% of GDP and about 85% of export earnings. It is second largest exporter of natural gas. I was always attracted to Qatar to see its all-round development.

The population of Qatar is about (almost) 25 lakhs (2.5 million). Majority of the population is expatriates while the population of native Qatri is just 3 lakhs (0.3m). The population of Indians expatriates is 7 lakhs (0.7m). Other expatriates are from different Gulf countries, the movements of nationals of Gulf Co-operation Council countries is without visa. They have right to live in any country as per their wishes. Except for nationality all citizens of GCC countries have almost full rights of work and living. The language of Arabic and culture of Islam strengthened their relationship. It is heartening to see so large Indian population doing business, managing industries, running restaurants, travel agencies and providing other services. Indians have earned good reputation as educated, competent, disciplined and reliable work force and managers.

On the invitation of my cousin brothers I decided to visit Qatar.

I boarded Air Delhi to Doha (Qatar) flight Air India flight AI 971 its STD being 7:50 pm on the 27th July. It became airborne at 8:00 pm. In the flight I observed that large number of passengers are workers and labourers in Qatar. The population of Indians living in Qatar is about seven lakhs (0.7m). They remit huge money, about US dollar 4.143 million annually to their families and thus provide precious foreign exchange to the government of India which helps in clearing bills of oil imports from Arab world.

Large number of families in India have somebody working in the Arab countries. It is next to their Indian homes. There is convenience of lingua franca Urdu and Hindi and also Malayalam. Food habits remain undisturbed. It is nearer to Indian shore, with a short flight duration. Some families run their business simultaneously in Arab countries and also in states like Kerala and Maharashtra. While travelling in Qatar I found that at every place we interacted with Indians and occasionally with native Qatari people.

It would be interesting to narrate my experience in getting visa on arrival which is the normal facility provided to Indian nationals besides about four dozen other countries. In consultation with my cousin, I bought the return travel tickets. After I purchased the ticket, my cousin consulted the travel agent in Doha about procedure to be followed for entry in Qatar. I was shocked to know that in case of visitor of India and some other countries compulsory quarantine for twenty-four hours at designated hotels for which the passengers or his host has to bear the high cost. In India I had already taken three doses of covid vaccines and maintain its certificate with photo of PM Narendra Modi. Within forty-eight hours before departure, I also obtained RT-PCR certificate. In spite of so much anti-covid measures I was disgusted to know about the compulsory hotel quarantine. Another jolt I got was when I was informed that for visa on arrival passengers the tourist has to stay in a hotel only. This measure was imposed in view of boosting occupancy of hotels available for hosting participants and officials and spectators of FIFA World Football championship. I learnt this provision was introduced in view of FIFA only and it was not compulsory earlier. When I got shock on two points, I decided to cancel my visit. However, Arfin Ahmad and rest of the family pressed me to continue with my travel plan. It is my general practice to keep in loop Indian embassy. The director general of Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Kumar Tuhin sent an email to India’s Ambassador Deepak Mittal to fix meeting to meet me during my visit of Qatar. Another young friend and director in Ministry of External Affairs Shatrughan Sinha sent email to his batchmate Ms. Angeline Premalatha who is Dy. Chief of Mission in Indian Embassy. She confirmed that as per EHTERAZ code I have to follow both the conditions. She asked some details of confirmed return ticket, covid vaccination certificate, etc. I sent her by email the required documents. On the 26th July I was sent an order of the Government of Qatar, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Protocol division giving me huge relief from both conditions. I was free to leave Doha airport to live with my relative/family. My flight arrived at Hamad International Airport, Doha at around 9:30 pm, local time. I reported at the Immigration Counter like other passengers. When I presented the order of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of Qatar I saw the immigration officer becoming perplexed to see such an unusual order of their government. He left his counter and proceeded to his boss who came running and met me. After few questions he asked me to wait. He then went to the duty officer incharge of immigration. Perhaps he recognized the order issuing authority and genuinity of the unusual order. Immediately after that my Passport was stamped for visa for one month.

I am thankful to all four senior Indian Foreign Service officers who made my travel to Qatar much convenient and smooth for me in view of covid restriction and FIFA preparations. I am also thankful to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Protocol, State of Qatar for their order vide letter no. MFA/0050924/2022 dated 25.07.2022 for conveying their approval to the request of Indian Embassy to waive the two conditions for entry. I was happy that the restrictions were lifted for me.

When I came out of the airport terminal my cousins were waiting for me outside. I was happy for warm welcome. We drove to the house of youngest of the three cousins there. His address is flat no.002, Building no.240, Zone 91, Street no.829, Ezdan Oasis, Al Wukair, Qatar. I found that houses, residential colonies and even commercial complexes have been given numeral identities. Numerals are easy to read for people of different languages. I found sign boards displayed at commercial complexes and restaurants. All roads displayed sign boards in Arabic and English languages. Knowing that the population of Indian expatriates is about 7 lakhs in comparison to 3 lakhs population of native Qatri I pondered Qatar looks quite like a part of India. I admired the royal government for being generous in extending hospitality. One culture was striking. There is no crime, no theft and practically no fight among persons. Some persons told me that even if the house or office or shop is left unlocked nobody would enter there for any mala fide intention. However, I learnt that in case of any occasional fight between native Qatri national and expatriate the police would take action only against the expatriates, the royal government has made life of every Qatri national very prosperous, rich, peaceful and dignified.

On the 28th July morning while I was sleeping there was heavy down pour. Whole Qatar got flooded. Even in the flat which is located on the ground floor rain water entered all rooms. When I got up I saw my cousin sweeping out water. He told me that rain is rare in Qatar. After three years there was rain and too heavy downpour. Rain is elusive but people are happy to have rain. Later when I met Ambassador Deepak Mittal told me that I brought rain from India. I felt happy that I was welcomed by rain also, a good omen.

After sumptuous breakfast I started my exploration or discovery of Qatar. Arfin Ahmad took me to their factory located in industrial area. Their companies are Megatech, dealing in construction and engineering, Alam & Ahmad, dealing in contracting and trading and Alam Foodstuff. They are into several business, structural steel fabrication, tensile membrane structure, earth drilling, piling works, building materials trading, equipment rental supply, supermarket, import and export. They cater to needs of vast and all-round development works going on in Qatar. The country has huge money due to high quality natural gas reserve. Hence, they are accelerating all round development activities. My observation is that Qatar is in search of ideas for more and more development and show case itself in comparison to Europe and America. They have huge money hence their all aspirations are justified. Even FIFA has given them opportunity to construct large number of stadiums, metro network, luxurious houses, apartments and colonies and what not. My view is that after FIFA some of the infrastructure created would not be used hence would create some sort of ghost colonies. After the FIFA they may give such properties on easy terms and conditions on long lease to expatriates to use them as per their requirement. Again, great opportunity waits for them.

Most of the tourist places are located in capital Doha Zone. I started sight-seeing tour by visiting Corniche, similar to Marine Drive in Mumbai in India. It is located at Doha Bay, Dafna, location for sky scrapers reminding me of Manhattan of New York. I have named it ‘Qatar Manhattan’. Somebody may call it Doha Manhattan as well. One thing spectacular I noticed was that all towers had different designs, almost hundred percent. I understand this was purposely and strictly done to promote uniqueness in design. I went to Pearl Qatar also where top class properties can be purchased by foreigners as free hold properties on ninety-nine years lease. I also visited Lagoona Mall. In the evening I visited Villagio on theme of Venice with Gondola boating. It is a good replica of Venice. I found it to be an ideal evening out with family and friends. Hot food cuisines from all over the world was available. Near to Villagio is located Torch Tower with multi-colour illumination of light and laser display. It was constructed at the time when Qatar hosted Asian Games.

My cousins hosted dinner at famous Bawarchi, Hyderabadi restaurant. It has chain of restaurants in all over Gulf Council countries. I liked dish of Haleem.

On the 29th July Arfin took me to the grand mosque for Friday Juma Namaz. I offered Namaz at Sheikh Abdul Wahab Mosque, Grand Mosque of Qatar. The infrastructure and design was unique which expressed the theme of Arab architecture. It was huge infrastructure with lavish facilities of washroom and ablution Wazu besides air-conditioning and carpet covering. There is a huge car parking space. It was divided into separate parking space for all cars and vehicles. The mosque is located in Dafna area. The impressive Manhattan land-scape row of skyscrapers are nearby. The headquarter of Al Jazeera TV is also located nearby. I found a police vehicle was stationed at the gate of independent and sprawling Al Jazeera campus located at ground floor. I was advised not to take any photograph of the building. After Juma Namaz I went to Mashaf. On the way I saw big campus of American Embassy. Similar to other Arab countries large contingent of US Army is stationed at Qatar and their entire establishment cost is borne by the government of Qatar.

I took lunch at the house of two cousins who live at one place, the eldest brother Sajid Alam living on first floor and second brother live on ground floor of the two-storey apartment. The lunch was very sumptuous with large number of Indian dishes along with some local dishes.

On the 29th August afternoon after lunch at cousin’s house I went on sight-seeing tour with Arfin Ahmad. First, I visited Qatar University which was closed due to Friday holiday. However, I travelled inside campus extensively. I found some construction work going on in the campus. Most of the popular disciplines are taught at the Qatar University with focus on science and engineering. 

I visited Lusail city. It has been developed as high-end infrastructure, unique designs and superfinish. I saw Katara Tower which is shaped like moon crescent, very unique in the concept and building. There are flats in the tower. One month after my visit I saw in newspapers photo of Virat Kohli playing cricket on red carpet in front of Katara tower. I also saw a box type of building. Again, an object of imagination. The building has several box types structures of flats. They are not in any vertical line as is normal building. To make it further distinctive the boxes of flat structures have been painted in different colours. It is design marvel. I saw Vendom Palace Mall. I also saw Lusail stadium which was constructed in 2022 only. The inauguration ceremony of the FIFA Games 2022 will be held at this stadium only. Lusail has been developed keeping in focus on showcasing the wealth, opulence, engineering excellence to glorify Qatar. It rightly deserves such acknowledgement in the world.

From Lusail I went to Katara cultural village situated on the bank of Doha Bay. The complete Katara village showcases the rich cultural heritage of Qatar. This is mix of wealth and imagination. I saw the grand amphitheatre at the village. The concept is on theme of Greece amphitheatre. There are two step galleries on two adjacent sides and two other sides are for the VIPs stage and the fourth-side for open view of Doha Bay. I understand that this amphitheatre would be used for organising cultural and other events to entertain participants and officials of FIFA World Cup 2022. I am sure the location will be rememberable for all participants. I saw Film city in Katara Cultural campus. The whole campus has been so well laid out that it would be good place to hold film shooting from the world cinema. Presently, also Qatar and other countries might have utilised this place for film shooting. An ideal location for film shooting Doha Bay, top class greenery and green carpet of grass everywhere. All buildings and structure showing aesthetic look. There is Katara Cinema also where films are organised regularly. I took tea with unique sweet chapati at an open eatery in front of the cinema hall. I found Nepalese waiters at the open restaurant. When I inquired how they feel to work here, they expressed their happiness. There are few mosques in the cultural centre. I offered Namaz of Maghrib (sunset) at the mosque. The tower of mosque was very beautiful, both in architecture and multicolour calligraphy. In the campus located at Doha Bay has beaches also. The people visit the cultural centre and the village for family outings. Here the environment is calm and relaxing. This is a must visit destination for any tourist coming to Qatar.

After sunset I visited Pearl Qatar, highly illuminated buildings. There is decoration of multicolour lighting. There are luxury hotels and luxury apartments and villas for mostly Europeans and people from western countries. I found true copy of western architecture and facilities. Pearl Qatar is a man-made island near West Bay in Doha. Presently, it has small resident population.

After Katara I visited Dafna again. It keeps on attracting me due to myriad of designs of tall towers and multicolour illumination. All towers have been intentionally designed to be unique and should not have any resemblance with any other tower in the area. The towers have been designed creatively. There are hotels and office buildings. I have termed this place as ‘Qatar Manhattan’ or ‘Doha Manhattan’.

I was seeing Parliament building whenever I travelled the important road at the corniche.

Architecture of Qatar

The architecture of Qatar incorporates geometric shapes, traditional designs and landscape. To name the ten architectural wonders in Qatar, they are: National Museum of Qatar, Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar National Library, Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Qatar National Convention Centre, Sidra Medicine, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, Al Janoub Stadium, Al Thumama stadium and AC Bayt stadium.

After visiting Dafna that I went to Souk Waqif, old cultural heritage type markets, commonly known as Irani markets. Earlier these were shops of Iranian people.

On the 30th July I was invited to the industrial area. I was given reception organised by Bihar-Jharkhand Expatriates Association of Qatar. The event was organised at office of Alam & Ahmad Contracting and Trading LLC, Birkat Al-Awamir, Wakrah.

I praised expatriate Indians a lot. I pointed out to them that they are very much part of vibrant society of India. They solve unemployment problem. They remit valuable foreign exchange for India to meet out import-expenditure. They look after their families well. They invest their savings in India which helps in increase of GDP. They visit their families at least once in a year. I also pointed out to them that Indian workforce has earned good reputation due to their knowledge, skill, hard work, discipline and honesty. They are like ambassadors of India promoting its positive image wherever they work. Later I learnt that there were several persons from Sri Lanka, Phillipines etc. About hundred persons attended the function. I was happy that I did not criticise any country. The reception ceremony was followed by sumptuous lunch which comprised of Arabian dishes and Turkish cuisines. The menu was mouth-watering, whenever I remember. The items were: Mixed Salad, Humas Zaitun, Labnah, Tomato mix, Garlic paste, Mixed Grill chicken and Mutton with Chicken Tikka, Chicken Kebab, Mutton Tikka, Mutton Kebab, Rais (lamb chop), Chicken Chilli fried, Mutton Nalli Pulao, Fresh Lemon Juice (special), Ras Malai with soft drink. I learnt the cost of the lunch was over two thousand Qatri Riyal.

After reception lunch was over Sharique Alam proposed to me to visit Banana Island, Resort Doha. I accepted his proposal happily to see as many areas and attractions of Qatar. The name is also intriguing. We reached Doha corniche at around 4pm. Near the alighting point of the ship is the place where attractions are made for promotion and publicity of the FIFA tournament. The flags of the participating countries were flowing in two rows near the Count Down Clock. This place on corniche is located opposite to the Parliament House building. Nearby across the road is also situated Islamic Institute (Museum). I had several photo coverage of the FIFA symbols displayed there. We took ticket for QR 300 which included boat ride and cover charges at several ethnic restaurants located at Banana Island. Before embarking the boat, we decided to return by 10 pm which would be last but one boat departing Banana Island.

Banana Island is a reclaimed area whose resort, beaches, ocean and peace welcome the tourists. It is also ideal for family and friends’ picnic and a day get together. Some tourists live at the resort also for few days. There I met an Indian origin Parveen of Maldives who watches the beach safety.

On 31st July, I wanted to complete my tourist exploration. Iqbal Ahmad Mallick, a relation of my cousins took me on long drive in mid noon. The SUV had good air condition and Iqbal was a good driver and knew the roads well. First he took me to see Al Wakra Stadium which looks like sip lid of pearl. Then I went to see National Museum of Doha. It has most unique architecture and unique collections of articles and art and history glimpse of Qatar. The design of National Museum of Qatar looks like hundreds of interlocking discs fitting together to form a desert rose, a natural mineral structure formed in wet sand.

Then I was driven to Qatar Foundation established by the mother of the present Amir and Ruler. It is located in vast area some parts have been developed and functioning already. Most of the area would be utilised for various purposes in course of time. I saw Education City and National Library, Sidra Hospital, Qatar Academy, etc. I understand the Qatar Royalty want to achieve some international standard of intellectual pursuit and make its image as place of knowledge also in the world. I appreciate their priorities in development of Qatar.

I counted the FIFA stadiums. I visited six FIFA stadiums during my visit to Qatar. They are Al Rayyan, Al Junub, Thumama, Ras Abu Abud, Lusail and Al Bait. As the stadiums are still under construction, they would be opened only on the eve of FIFA World Cup to be held in November-December 2022.

After some rest after lunch, I along with my three industrialist cousins visited Indian Embassy located in Dafna near the Manhattan. The Ambassador Deepak Mittal welcomed us at schedule meeting time at 4 pm. The Dy. Chief of Mission Ms. Angeline Premalatha, also joined the discussion. He was courteous to have requested me to sit with him at the identical sofa chair. The discussion was focused on difficulties faced by Indian entrepreneurs and industrialists. He informed the delegation to join concerned organisation which has umbrella cover of the Indian Embassy. It was heartening to see that Indian expatriates are successful and earning foreign exchange besides good name and reputation of India. India has best of relations with Qatar.

Qatar’s impact in Islamic world, particularly on Palestine issue.

During the Arab Spring, Qatar moved from its traditional foreign policy role a diplomatic mediator to embrace change in the Middle East and North Africa and support transitioning states. Regional actors viewed Qatar’s approach as over-reaching, and skepticism of Doha’s policy motivations increased. Qatar’s new leadership, which came to power in June 2013, is adapting by reverting to a more pragmatic foreign policy and addressing the fall out from its support for Islamist movements in the region.

Qatar policy on Palestine and Israel.

FIFA has confirmed that Israeli citizens will be able to enter Qatar during the World Cup and watch games. Israel is a participating country in FIFA World Cup Qatar.

Qatar supports Palestinians more than any other Arab country. It spends huge money on welfare of Palestinians in Gaza strip. Qatar supports liberation of Palestine.

On 1st August I reached Hamad International Airport to take Air India flight AI 972 departing Doha at 22:35 local time and arriving Terminal 3 of IGIA New Delhi at 5:05 am on next day that is 2nd August 2022.

During my visit to Qatar, I was searching any brochure about Qatar Tourism but it was not available. I searched newspaper also. But it was also not available though I was told that some shopping malls do sell newspapers. After check-in at Air India counter, I again searched any material on Qatar tourism, but there was none. However, near boarding gate somebody suggested me to search some brochure on Qatar tourism in a specific area. I retreated to locate the place with intention to purchase any literature or book on tourism. Ultimately, I found a tourism counter in a corner which was not easily visible to the visitors. This counter was manned by a single person who is from Gujarat in India. He gave me some rudimentary map, etc. I told him that he should have opened the counter at the arrival of the airport and not in departure area. I told him that the materials available at his counter are of substandard and not prepared thoughtfully and imaginatively. There is hardly any details available in the brochure. He told me that I can see details on the website of Qatar tourism.

I also saw the big size Mascot of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. It is named La’eeb. Its meaning is super-skilled player. He would bring the joy of football to everyone. FIFA World Cup tournament would begin on Sunday 20th November 2022 and end on Sunday 18th December 2022. I wish the FIFA and Qatar all success and laurels. May it promote peace, friendship and harmony in the world.


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