Emir Sheikh Tamim and US President Barack Obama in February 2015.


Emir Sheikh Tamim and US President Barack Obama in February 2015.

Two gold-plated mechanical birds worth US$110,000 each, six porcelain plates with hand-painted designs in 24-carat gold and a wooden music box worth $17,720 were among the gifts given to the Obamas last year by Qatar’s ruling family.

The presents were detailed in a list published by the US State Department last week that outlined the generosity of foreign governments across the world in 2015.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

By law, US government officials are not allowed to keep gifts given to them by foreign government representatives.

But according to the disclosure, they accept some offerings to “avoid embarrassment to the donor and the US government.”

These must be turned over to the country’s National Archives or other official body.

The Obamas

Qatar spent more than $303,224 on 39 gifts to US leaders last year, almost double the $170,000 of presents purchased in 2014.

The most expensive items – the set of gold-plated birds – were given to US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle by Qatar’s Emir in November.

The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser ahead of the opening of the 2015 WISE summit.

Qatar Foundation

The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser ahead of the opening of the 2015 WISE summit.

That same month, the first lady also received an elaborate music box from Sheikha Moza during her first official visit to Qatar.

Michelle Obama was in town to speak at Qatar Foundation‘s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) and promote her initiative Let Girls Learn.

Other gifts

Qatar officials also presented Gucci scarves, silk rugs, luxury watches and other items to US lawmakers.

As in the past, senior members of the US Armed Forces and Department of Defense received several gifts, reflecting the two countries’ deep security relationship.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to AP, the country’s gifts were only second in cost only to Saudi Arabia.

Its king gave President Obama some $523,000 in items. They included a gem-encrusted horse sculpture, a chronometer, a set of golf clubs and a golf bag.

Meanwhile, the Emir of Kuwait gave Obama a $42,000 silver-coated resin sculpture of camels. And Bahrain’s Crown Prince sent a $10,000 sterling silver sphere that opens to display a clock under a magnifying glass.


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Qatar pledges $100,000 to UN fund for victims of human trafficking

Qatar has donated US$100,000 (approximately QR364,000) to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund to support victims of human trafficking, QNA reports.

Ali Khalfan Al Mansouri, Qatar’s permanent representative to the UN and International Organizations in Vienna, announced the pledge this week as part of efforts to strengthen international cooperation against trafficking and illegal immigration.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Jim Lynch/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Officials in Qatar appear primed to pass a new law that would require parents to buckle small kids into car seats.

The move comes after years of awareness campaigns, according to Khalid Saifeldeen, director of Hamad International Training Center (HITC).

Speaking to Doha News this week at the transport forum, the official said his Hamad Medical Corp.-affiliated group has been pushing for legislation to curb bad driving habits.

He added:

“The legislation has been proposed and discussed with the prime minister, and is currently under consideration. It is only a matter of time before it will be implemented.”

The law

Right now, parents are not required to strap small kids into car seats.

However, it is illegal for children under the age of 10 years old to ride in the front seat of a vehicle.

Still, this practice persists in Qatar, as babies are routinely seen sitting unrestrained on parents’ laps in the front.

Before any new legislation passes, many people have said existing laws need to be enforced, including Saifeldeen. Speaking to Doha News in 2013, he said:

“At the end of the day, the police must enforce this – this doesn’t need a great deal of education. Putting them in the back seat is just a starting point, a beginning of acceptance that what they’re doing is wrong.

We also want to stop people letting their children hang out of windows. Just one pothole, and they could fall out. These things should be just basic parental instinct.”

Over the past few years, HMC has been training volunteers on how to correctly install car seats.

So far, more than 100 technicians have been trained under the Kulluna safety initiative.

Not just enforcement

Other experts this week said road safety goes beyond police intervention.

Road engineers also play a big role, said safety specialist Michael De Roos from Ashghal during one panel session.

“We can’t blame the driver. We’re not trying to scare people who speed, but there are simple engineering techniques and ways we can let them know about the physics of a car,” he said.

And other officials stressed that more surveys and campaigns should take place first before any legislation is adopted.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But Saifeldeen said there currently needs to be more focus on “parental responsibility” when it comes to changing road behavior.

“We don’t doubt that parents love their children, but sometimes we need to alert them. We don’t want children to act like floating bullets when accidents happen,” he said.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Motorists in Al Rayyan area should prepare for delays and diversions as Lebdaya roundabout closes today for the next two years, Ashghal has announced.

The roundabout is west of the Doha Expressway and on the edge of Al Rayyan Park. It connects Al Beday St. with Al Rayyan Al Ateek St. (also called Al Rayyan Al Qadeem St).

It is used as a popular route that links the neighborhoods of Al Gharafa, Luqta and Madinat Khalifa on the other side of the Expressway.

Al Rayyan Road phase 2 works


Al Rayyan Road phase 2 works

The roundabout exit from Huwar St. onto Al Rayyan Al Qadeem St. will also shut during works to the area.

The road closures are to allow for the construction of multi-level interchanges as part of the Al Rayyan Road upgrade, Ashghal said in a statement.

Alternative routes

Diversions will be in place during the works and a reduced speed limit of 50kph will be in place.

Motorists heading from Doha to Al Gharafa should turn right at the replacement Lebdaya roundabout onto Al Beday St.

They can then turn left onto the new Al Maqareen St. before heading right onto Huwar St.

The same route in reverse can be used from Al Gharafa to central Doha.

Lebdaya roundabout closures


Lebdaya roundabout closures

For drivers heading from Doha to Bani Hajer, they should turn left at Lebdaya roundabout, then right onto Al Rayyan Al Jadeed Road.

Sections of Al Rayyan Al Qadeem St. will remain open for residential access and local use. Drivers will also be able to make u-turns.

Al Rayyan Road is being upgraded in phases.

Phase two, worth QR3.4 billion, stretches from west of Sports roundabout to just west of New Rayyan (Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Attiyah) roundabout. It is due to be finished by Q2 2019, according to Ashghal.