Sheikh Ali bin Jassim Al-Thani (left) with Polish President Andrzej Duda (right)


Sheikh Ali bin Jassim Al Thani (left) with Polish President Andrzej Duda (right)

Sheikh Ali bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, has become the head of the Gulf country’s first diplomatic mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Al Thani began the role, which he will perform alongside his normal ambassadorial duties, earlier this month.

The establishment of the new diplomatic mission came after Qatar was invited to do so by the military alliance.

Qatar is described by NATO as “a very active partner” of the alliance, due to its membership of NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

Villaggio fire defendant

Al Thani was co-owner of the former Gympanzee daycare center in Villaggio mall, where a fire killed 19 people, including 13 children, in 2012.

He and four other people, including his wife, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2013 and sentenced to serve jail time.

However, the defendants appealed and last month, a judge dismissed the prison terms.

Instead, he said he wanted to “punish” the defendants by ordering them to pay so-called blood money compensation to the families of the victims.

During the four-year-long saga, Al-Thani came under fire for failing to attend court sessions, citing work commitments outside of Qatar.


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Gulf Mall

Peter Kovessy

Gulf Mall

With reporting from Peter Kovessy

Movie-goers in Qatar now have a new place to watch the latest releases, following the soft opening of another Qatar Bahrain International Cinema theater (Cineco) at Gulf Mall.

The 13-screen cinema is located on the second floor of Gulf Mall and includes two VIP theaters. Ticket prices start at QR35.

It’s currently among the largest cinemas in Qatar, but appears to be opening at a time when fewer people are going to the theater.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics, the number of movie-goers in Qatar rose from 2009-2013, but then dropped in 2014.

Movie-going in Qatar


Movie-going in Qatar

However, the data also shows that fewer films were screened in 2014, which may have discouraged some would-be movie goers from heading to the theater.

Other cinemas

That said, the cinema market has been rapidly expanding in Qatar.

In March for example, a three-screen cinema operated by Cineco launched inside Al Khor Mall.

Rendering of Doha Festival City

Doha Festival City

Rendering of Doha Festival City

And three other large theaters are expected to open in the coming year, including:

  • A 12-screen movie theater at Tawar Mall, which is located down the road from Landmark and Gulf malls and is expected to open by year-end;
  • A 19-screen VOX cinema complex that includes a 4D film experience at Doha Festival City, which is planning a February opening; and
  • A 19-screen theater at Mall of Qatar that includes IMAX and six VIP screens, and is scheduled to open in late October.

Gulf Mall’s Cineno movie timings can be found online. Thoughts?

Rendering of Rawdat Al Khail Street Extension plans


Rendering of Rawdat Al Khail Street Extension plans

Motorists out and about in southern Doha this weekend may need to add some extra time to their journeys as two new sets of road closures take effect.

The first closure will be in Abu Hamour at the junction of Wholesale Market St. and Mesaimeer Road, Ashghal said.

This is to enable work on utilities ducts, as part of the Rawdat Al Khail St. extension project, the Public Works Authority added in a statement.

Starting tomorrow, the stretch of Mesaimeer Road between Rawdat Al Khail Street and Al Erbayyat Street will be shut in both directions, while a section of Wholesale Market Street (between passport and immigration office to near Al Jazeera Academy) will also close both ways to traffic.

Wholesale Market Street closure


Wholesale Market Street closure

As work goes on, diversions will be in place for the next two weekends. They begin early tomorrow morning at 1am and last until 4am on Sunday, May 29. The same roads will close again at 11pm on June 2 and reopen at 5am on June 5.

Planned to be completed by the end of this year according to Ashghal’s website, the work involves creating 8km of dual carriageway on a stretch of Abu Hamour Road/Rawdat Al Khail Street and a further 2km on F-Ring Road.

This project aims to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow between the Industrial Area and central Doha, while also providing better connections to F-Ring Road and Barwa Avenue.

Old Airport closure

Meanwhile, diversions will also be in place in the Old Airport area starting today and lasting for three weeks.

Road closures - Oqbal Bin Nafea


Road closures – Oqbal Bin Nafea

Part of Oqba Bin Nafie St. where it meets Najma St. and south of The Mall will be closed while works are underway for conversion of the junction to a signal-controlled intersection, Ashghal said.

Traffic to the area will instead be diverted via Ahmad bin Hanbal St. and other local roads.

Will the work affect your journeys? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Employees of Qatar ministries, government bodies and public institutions will work a five-hour day during Ramadan, from 9am to 2pm, officials have announced.

The news, which was posted on QNA this morning, comes about 10 days before the start of Ramadan (which will begin around June 5).

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

John Joh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The five-hour workday does not apply to private companies. However, Qatari law states that these firms must also have a shortened workday of six hours.

Government-run independent schools are already operating shorter hours following an education ministry directive to give them time to prepare for exams. The schedule will continue during Ramadan.

Since May 15, government kindergartens have finished at 11:10am, primary school students at 11:45am and preparatory and secondary school students at 12:35pm.

Shorter private school hours

Meanwhile, many of Qatar’s private schools are also reducing their hours as Ramadan approaches.

According to the Peninsula, the Pakistan Education Center (PEC) has already reduced its school day by up to an hour,  and the Al Maha International School in Ain Khalid now finishes at 12:30pm, an hour earlier than usual.

Other schools are waiting for Ramadan to begin before they shorten their days.

Many have already notified parents of the changes. Doha College, for example, will shorten its days by an hour with a later start, and Doha English Speaking School (DESS) will reduce its day by around an hour (and in some cases, more) depending on the age of the student.

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Teach for Qatar / Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Meanwhile, the Peninsula reports that Birla Public School (BPS) will reduce its working hours during Ramadan by one and a half hours, with a later 7:30am start and an earlier finish.

Last year, the government issued a last-minute circular to all non-government schools and kindergartens urging them to operate a five-hour school day during Ramadan.

Long school holidays

The early arrival of Ramadan combined with two Eid holidays in the hotter months mean that the government has mandated an unusually long break for students this year.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Mike Licht/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The government’s unified summer holiday schedule, a policy that was introduced in 2012, states that schools should recommence on Sept. 18 after Eid Al Adha. Most schools in Qatar break for the holidays in late June or early July.

However, not all schools in Qatar are honoring the ruling. British school Doha College, for example, returns on Aug. 29, while a number of others, including Doha British School, Park House English School, Compass and DESS all begin again on Sept. 4.