Raytheon

Raytheon early warning radar system.

US-based defense firm Raytheon has been awarded a $1.1 billion contract to build an early warning radar system for Qatar, the Pentagon has announced.

In a statement, the firm said the system will be integrated into Qatar’s current air and missile defense capabilities once it is completed by mid-2021.

The deal has been in the works for almost four years.

Qatar first put in a request to purchase the radar system in 2013. The contract has since been awaiting lawmaker approval.

Regional stability

At the time, the order package included an A/N FPS-132 Block 5 Early Warning Radar. Additional parts and equipment, training and technical support were also part of the deal.

The system is capable of detecting “sea-launched or intercontinental ballistic missiles” at a range of up to 3,000 miles (4,828 km) and is capable of tracking them in real time, US Defense documents show.

When notifying Congress about the contract, the United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the sale would “promote regional stability by enhancing regional defense to a key U.S. ally.”

It continued:

“The acquisition of this air defense system would provide a permanent defensive capability to the Qatar Peninsula as well as protection of the economic infrastructure and well-being of Qatar.”

Defense

Qatar has spent billions of dollars shoring up its defenses in the past few years amid growing regional instability.

In December, it placed a $29.5 million order with US firm Lockheed Martin for an unspecified number of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC3) missiles and PAC-3 MSE interceptors.

U.S Pacific Command

Patriot missile

And last fall, the government signed a deal to install a defense system along its coast to help stop hostile ships from entering its waters.

Qatar is also investing in new aircraft as it expands its air defense capability. For example, US lawmakers recently approved Qatar’s purchase of 36 F-15 fighter jets from Boeing.

Thoughts?

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US Department of Education / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than three dozen private schools and kindergartens in Qatar are being permitted to raise their tuition fees during the 2017/2018 school year, the country’s education ministry has announced.

The 38 schools include the Filipino International School, SEK International, MES Indian School, the Finnish school and Doha College (West Bay), according to a list published by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

They will be allowed to raise fees between 1 and 15 percent.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Officials said yesterday that nearly half of all schools and kindergartens in Qatar requested fee increases.

But most of the 127 institutions were denied hikes, they added.

Long process

According to the education ministry, schools had to go through a multi-step process to win tuition hike approval.

This included filing their applications between Dec. 1 and 31 of last year and submitting up to four years of financial reports in Arabic.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Several schools were rejected for missing the deadline or because their reports were found to be lacking credibility and accuracy.

Additionally, the applications needed to be approved by several different ministry committees, as well as the minister himself.

Cost of education

Last year, the ministry approved fees increases for 55 schools, but only from 2 to 7 percent.

At the time, educators said they understood higher tuition fees can be a financial burden on parents.

Russell Bond/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But they argued that they need to at least keep teachers’ salaries in line with inflation to attract the best staff, as well as meet any other rising costs such as accommodation and facility rentals.

However, housing rental costs are dropping in Qatar and inflation has also slowed considerably. So it remains unclear why so many schools have applied for fee hikes this year.

Is your child’s school raising tuition soon? Thoughts?

All photos by Carmen Inkpen

Doha resident Carmen Inkpen wants moms to know that it’s OK to breastfeed their babies in public in Qatar.

In the past, the Canadian expat said she has resorted to feeding her daughter Grace in toilet cubicles or in her car.

But she wants to stop other moms from feeling that they have to hide in this way.

Unicef

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Doha News, she said no one has ever given her a hard time for breastfeeding in public in Qatar. But she added she would often worry about offending someone.

“There are campaigns here about dressing modestly, so having to get my boob out discreetly without anybody seeing, that was the hardest,” she said.

Photo sessions

Inkpen said that her experiences have inspired her to use her profession – photography – to help change attitudes and challenge beliefs.

In this vein, she has launched a new project on Facebook, sharing candid photos of moms nursing their children while out and about in Qatar.

The aim, she said, is to show other women that it is acceptable to breastfeed their babies in public.

Supplied

Carmen Inkpen and her daughter Grace

As part of the campaign, Inkpen put a call out to women on Facebook. Some 40 women responded, and she photographed them in two sessions at the Intercontinental Doha hotel and the Pearl-Qatar.

During each, moms fed their babies openly in a cafe setting “with no cover, and that was their own choice,” Inkpen said. She added:

“Nobody said anything, the waiters said nothing. In my time (in Qatar), I’ve never seen a woman openly feed like that.”

Cultural concerns

Inkpen said she is aware that some Qatar residents might be offended by photos showing partially uncovered breasts, so she has decided to feature photos where there is no skin on display.

“It still gets the point across – you can’t see any skin but you know the baby’s feeding,” she said.

A fear of offending people had also been a major concern of most moms she had spoken to, Inkpen said.

Carmen Inkpen / With a little Grace

Inkpen hopes her images will help to change preconceptions

One of the moms who took part in the photo shoots was Qatar expat Clare Flores.

She used to hesitate about feeding her son in public, but told Doha News that a chance encounter soon changed her mind.

During a visit to the Cuban Hospital for a check-up, she found no designated breastfeeding room, so took her baby to the women’s waiting room to feed.

fikirbaz/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A few minutes into the feed, a lady sitting next to her began speaking to her in Arabic.

“I only speak English and at first I thought she was telling me not to breastfeed so I took my son off my breast,” Flores recalled, continuing:

“Then one of the younger ladies translated to me that the Arabic speaking lady was telling me that I should hold my baby in another more comfortable position!

Soon all ladies in the waiting room were chatting to me and offering me advice. It was a warming experience,” she said.

Poor breastfeeding rates

A 2012 government survey found that only 29 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed in Qatar during the first six months of a baby’s life. Globally, the average is 37 percent.

To help improve this, a new law to help promote breastfeeding in currently being discussed.

It would ban advertising of formula milk in Qatar, and also forbid doctors from participating in conferences sponsored by infant milk companies.

Sander van der Wel/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, the reasons for low breastfeeding rates in Qatar are many and complex, and include short maternity leave, an absence of workplace nurseries and a lack of post-natal support.

Inkpen believes that worries about offending people, coupled with a lack of breastfeeding rooms in public spaces in Qatar, could also be putting women off.

“We (in Qatar) want people to breastfeed, but we don’t provide breastfeeding facilities. One of the moms (at the photo shoots) recently went to the Mall of Qatar, a newly-opened mall, and there were no breastfeeding rooms there.”

Have you felt embarrassed or concerned about breastfeeding in public in Qatar? Thoughts?

Mondrian

The Mondrian Doha  in West Bay Lagoon

A new luxury hotel in Qatar that draws inspiration from falcons is expecting to open its doors to the public within the next few months.

Four years behind its original schedule, the Mondrian Doha is now eying a soft launch during the second quarter of this year, its owners have announced.

The hotel will have 270 rooms and suites, eight bars and restaurants with local and international cuisine and what is being billed as “an exclusive and immense spa.”

Mondrian

The atrium of the Mondrian Hotel Doha

Plans for the hotel, which is located in West Bay lagoon near the Lagoona mall, were initially revealed in 2011, and an opening was set for 2013.

However, the project, which is part of the sbe hotel group, has seen multiple delays. The most recent launch date passed in the fall of 2015.

No explanation has been given for the postponements.

‘Hollywood vibe’

Owners said the Doha hotel aims to achieve the same “up-all-night intensity, the energy and Sunset Strip vibe” of the original Mondrian hotel in Hollywood.

Mondrian

A bedroom at the Mondrian Doha

The building, designed by Dutch architect Marcel Wanders, stands 31-stories high, and its appearance was apparently inspired by the falcon.

It has an entrance shaped like a beak, wing-like extensions framing the rooftop and basements that appear to carved out like a nest.

Inside, it will also apparently reference the bird of prey in paintings, portraits and ornaments.

New restaurants

Doha’s foodies will be keen to know which restaurants the hotel will host.

The Mondrian’s owners have revealed that two of them will be global brands – CUT by Wolfgang Puck, a fine dining steak house, and Japanese fusion restaurant Morimoto Doha.

Mondrian

One of the dining venues at the new hotel

The hotel will also have a branch of the popular Magnolia Bakery in its lobby.

Other eateries include an authentic Qatari restaurant called Walima; a burger joint and bar called the Hudson Tavern; a cigar lounge called Smoke and Mirrors; and a shisha terrace.

The Mondrian is also planning to have “entertainment floor” complete with a nightclub, Black Orchid, an indoor pool and a skybar on its top floor, Cirrus.

Following a soft launch before the summer, the Mondrian will hold an official opening in September, the Qatar Tribune reports.

Are you looking forward to visiting? Thoughts?