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Seized marijuana

Qatar Customs Authority

Seized marijuana

It’s been a busy month for customs officials in Qatar.

This week, the authority honored several officers after they seized some 29kg of marijuana off of five different passengers arriving in Doha.

The accused all hail from “Asian” countries, the Customs Authority said in a statement.

Four of the passengers had flown into Hamad International Airport (HIA) and attempted to smuggle drugs in their suitcases.

Meanwhile, a fifth tried to hide the marijuana in an air freight package containing textbooks and folders.

Smuggling point

According to HIA Customs Director Ajab Mansour al Qahtani, the incidents highlight the rising prevalence of drug smugglers entering Qatar.

But he added that the seizures also showed the capabilities of officials in protecting the country’s borders from the contraband.

Other notable seizures this year included 11kg of marijuana hidden in a bag of dried chili peppers; 332g of marijuana tucked into a box of sweets; and 4kg of cannabis stuffed inside stereo speakers.

Thoughts?

Hamad International Airport

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Hamad International Airport

More than 17.6 million passengers passed through Hamad International Airport (HIA) during the first six months of 2016.

That’s a 20 percent increase from last year and puts HIA well on its way to surpassing its annual capacity of 30 million passengers for the second year in a row.

In a statement, HIA CEO Badr Al-Meer said the first two quarters of the year marked “the busiest for our airport to date.”

He added:

“We are therefore committed to further invest in the development of HIA, by adding capacity, improving connectivity and delivering the best services to our travelers.”

Expansion plans

Al-Meer didn’t go into specifics, but the CEO of airport operator Qatar Airways said the expansion’s first phase is already underway and should be finished by the end of this year.

Speaking to media last month, Akbar Al Baker added that plans to double HIA’s capacity to 60 million passengers annually would finish “by 2021, latest.”

In the first six months of this year, Qatar’s national carrier has continued to grow rapidly, adding eight new destinations.

This and additional flights from other carriers boosted aircraft operations at HIA by 17 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

Who’s coming to Doha

In a statement, HIA said that one of out five passengers using the airport came from Dubai, London, Bangkok, Bahrain or Colombo.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Fadi Benne

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to recent government figures, however, more than 70 percent of this traffic never actually leaves the airport.

But Qatar is hoping to change this and boost tourism in the coming years.

One strategy it recently announced is to offer a visa-on-arrival system for tourists from the populous nations of India, Russia and China.

Thoughts?

Hamad International Airport

Chantelle D'Mello

Hamad International Airport

With Eid Al Adha just around the corner on Sept. 12, a busy travel season has already begun in Qatar.

In an announcement to passengers this week, Hamad International Airport has advised travelers to expect the holiday rush to last from now until Sept. 14.

On its website, it advised people to arrive three hours before their flights and use e-gate if possible to avoid lines.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Check-in at the airport will close 60 minutes before departure, so passengers are also encouraged to check-in online in advance if possible.

Additionally, anyone who is dropping off or picking up passengers has been advised to use the short-term car park. That offers 30 minutes of free parking and costs QR5 per hour thereafter.

Security

However, HIA did not comment on the ongoing security in the area.

Guards have been periodically stopping non-travelers from entering the departure and arrival terminals over the past few months.

Currently, access to the departures terminal appears to be more restricted than at arrivals.

This week, two guards at departures told Doha News that no one was allowed inside unless they were traveling out of HIA.

Hamad Airport security

Reem Saad / Doha News

Hamad Airport security

However, speaking to Doha News, one security officer admitted the policy was being unevenly enforced.

She said those who need to accompany children into the terminal are generally allowed inside, but need to have identification on hand.

She added that people in national dress are also usually permitted entry, even without ID.

Meanwhile, a new bag scanner has been set up for all entrants at the arrivals terminal, which is generally now accessible to all. However, many people are still being asked for their passports or ID cards.

Thoughts?