Paul Gillet

Photo of Manchester Arena for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar has “strongly condemned and denounced” an explosion which killed nearly two dozen people at an Ariana Grande concert in the UK last night.

The state’s foreign minister also issued a short statement on Twitter expressing “sincere condolences and thoughts” to the victims and their families.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on QNA this morning that it “reiterated Qatar’s firm stance on rejecting violence and terrorism regardless of its source and whatever its motives and reasons.”

Qatar rejects “all criminal attacks that terrorize the innocent people and contradict with humanitarian values and principles,” the ministry added.

It said the Gulf state stood in “full solidarity” with the UK government and expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the UK government, wishing the injured a quick recovery.

With 22 people dead, this is one of the deadliest attacks the UK has seen in recent years, and officials are treating it as terrorism-related for now.

The explosion took place in the foyer of Manchester Arena around 10:30pm, according to police.

Also, more than 50 people have suffered “shrapnel-like injuries,” the BBC reports.

Grande is a 23-year-old American pop singer, and many in the audience were teenagers and their mothers.

Following the attack, the artist, who was unharmed, tweeted:

Qatar reactions

In Qatar, people waking up to news of the tragedy reacted with similar horror:

Qatar and the UK are close allies, and the attack comes days after the government reaffirmed its stance against regional extremist groups.

Thoughts?

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QTA

The MSC Fantasia, which first docked in Qatar in December 2016.

Nearly 50,000 people visited Qatar via cruise this season, an increase of more than 1,000 percent from last year, officials have announced.

The surge in visitors was helped by an increase in the number of cruise ships coming to Qatar.

Another big factor was the rollout of a new free 96-hour transit visa for tourists late last year. This made it easy for any passenger onboard a ship to disembark in the country.

QTA

Cruise visitors in Qatar

The growth in cruise visitors is a win for the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), which struggled to attract visitors last year due to what it called increasing competition and political turmoil in the region.

In a statement yesterday, Hassan Al Ibrahim, the QTA’s chief tourism development officer, said:

“Collectively, we have proven Qatar’s value as a successful and attractive tourist destination to dozens of cruise liners and thousands of passengers.

I am confident that even as work begins on the redevelopment of Doha Port, we will be able to provide smooth and memorable end-to-end experiences that reinforce Qatar’s position as a truly world-class hub with deep, authentic roots.”

By the numbers

Some 22 cruise ships and one mega-yacht docked at Qatar’s ports during the most recent season, which ran from October to April.

That’s more than double the 10 ships Qatar welcomed during the 2015-2016 season. During that period, only 4,000 passengers were issued tourist visas.

Milaha

Photo of Doha Port for illustrative purposes only.

According to QTA’s annual report, authorities are ambitiously expecting some 300,000 cruise visitors during the 2019/2020 season.

To help with that goal, a QR2 billion overhaul of Doha Port is planned. The aim is to attract visitors by making this a turnaround port during the next cruise season.

In its annual report, QTA explained:

“Becoming a turnaround port means that in the near future, international cruise passengers could fly to Qatar, enter using a transit visa, and begin and end their cruise in Doha.

This will increase the length of stay in Qatar of a growing segment of visitors, and allow them to further explore our country’s tourism offering, while increasing the economic impact of cruise tourism.”

Tough market

Cruise tourism has been a bright spot for Qatar, which saw overall visitor numbers fall last year, after three years of growth.

According to QTA’s annual report, some 2,938,000 people visited Qatar in 2016, compared to 2,941,000 in 2015.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

One-third of those visitors hailed from neighboring Saudi Arabia. Another big chunk came from the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.

Authorities have been trying to diversify away from Gulf visitors, however, and cruises have helped with this.

The QTA said that the top 10 nationalities of people who visited Qatar via cruise ships were British, Italian, Spanish, German, Belgian, French, Swiss, American, Brazilian and Irish.

Thoughts?

Penn State/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Motorists traveling to and from Dafna/West Bay and the Pearl/Katara will notice some big traffic changes this week as work continues on Lusail Expressway.

Starting Thursday, the junction connecting Omar Al Mukhtar St. to Lusail St. will be permanently closed, Ashghal has announced.

The move will help the public works authority as it prepares to open a new flyover on the same day.

Ashghal

New diversions

Ashghal called it the Al Khaleej Al Gharbi flyover, but the junction was previously known as Al Wahda and then West Bay interchange.

It is the same area where iconic arches are being built to replace the “rainbow” that stood at the now-razed roundabout in the same area.

Ashghal/Twitter

Rendering of Al Wahda arches

When the flyover opens, three lanes in one direction will facilitate free flow traffic from Lusail to Dafna/West Bay.

But many commuters heading from University St. toward the Pearl area will need to take a more circuitous route than usual.

What’s changed

Ashghal has advised motorists heading in the following directions to allot extra time for their journeys, especially during peak traffic hours:

  • Commuters heading from University (Al Jamiaa St.) toward Dafna/West Bay and the Pearl will need to continue on Omar Al Mukhtar St., and then follow the signs to make a U-turn that either takes them straight toward West Bay, or left toward the Pearl.
  • Commuters heading from Dafna/West Bay to University St. should continue straight along Lusail St., take the Old Exhibition Center exit and then make a U-turn above Onaiza tunnel. Then continue straight and exit onto the new road to get onto Omar Al Mukhtar St. heading toward University St. (be sure to stay in the far right lane).

Those driving from West Bay/Dafna toward the Pearl will remain unaffected. And motorists going from the Pearl toward Dafna can use the new Onaiza Tunnel and the new flyover.

Notably, the speed limit has been reduced to 50km/hour in that entire area, Ashghal said.

Lusail Expressway update

Work on the QR3.5 billion Lusail Expressway began in 2012. When completed by early 2018, it will link Doha’s business district with the new city of Lusail through an extensive overhaul of the old Al Istiqlal Road.

Last month, the first phase of the expressway opened to traffic.

Doha News

Opening of Onaiza tunnel on Lusail Expressway

The Onaiza Interchange tunnel bypasses the traffic lights in front of the former Doha Exhibition Center. This has sped up commutes to Katara and the Pearl-Qatar from West Bay.

The new 5.3km route will eventually have four lanes in each direction, with additional turn lanes and three multi-level intersections at the Pearl, Onaiza and Al Wahda.

Will the new diversions affect you? Thoughts?

US Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To keep popular groceries affordable during a busy shopping season, Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has instituted price caps on 418 products throughout Ramadan.

Since Sunday, stores have been prohibited by law to charge more than a set amount for certain types of rice, flour, milk, yogurt, meat, soap, jam, dried fruit, frozen products, cheeses and other items.

Here’s the full list of products, in English and Arabic.

Al Meera is taking that idea a step further. It has pledged once again to sell more than 1,400 items at cost-price to consumers who shop at most of its stores.

Easing the burden

The prices will remain in effect throughout the month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin this weekend.

In a statement, the MEC explained that grocery shopping surges some 25 percent during Ramadan, and this annual price cap initiative helps “ease the burden” on customers.

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Usually, ministry prices for the listed items come out to 10 percent less than their usual cost.

This is the seventh year that the government has set maximum prices for basic food and non-food goods during Ramadan.

The month is a time when Muslim families cook large meals to share with relatives, friends and neighbors, as well as those in need.

The MEC added that it would be stepping up inspections in the coming weeks.

Consumers who spot violations of any kind in restaurants and stores can call 16001, email [email protected] or reach out the ministry on Twitter, Instagram or via its mobile app.

Thoughts?