Qatar’s 10th edition of Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF), which is the country’s longest-running multicultural event, begins today. QIFF will take place at Oxygen Park in Qatar’s Foundation’s Education city from March 20th until March 30th.
For this year’s occasion, there will be over 150 F&B stalls situated over 3 main areas: 1) main course specialties; 2) kids-friendly foods and activities; 3) cafes and light food. The event will also include private seating areas with pre-set menus, luxury culinary experiences, and will be accompanied by cultural and gastronomic shows/exhibitions.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, QIFF will be hosting approximately 30 international and local celebrity chefs from 14 different countries. The chefs will be demonstrating their culinary expertise and knowledge via live cooking shows and demonstrations. For instance, on March 23rd, famous Japanese Chef, Masaharu Morimoto, will be conducting a cooking Masterclass for the occasion.
Rashed Al-Qurese, a member of Qatar National Tourism Council, stated the following about the upcoming food festival:
We are excited to launch this year’s edition of QIFF with the support of our partners and celebrate the success of this decade-long food tradition that continues to attract celebrity chefs, food-lovers, F&B entrepreneurs, and so many members of Qatar’s diverse community.
The food festival will not be confined within Oxygen Park: more than 35 designated restaurants and cafes will be offering special food menus at discounted prices. This will allow locals and those not attending the event at Oxygen Park to experience and enjoy the overall culinary festivity.
In collaboration with Qatar Foundation, QIFF will be promoting food and nutrition awareness programs for students from 50 schools across Qatar. Therefore, other than being an opportunity to refine one’s palate, the food festival will incorporate educational elements to attract and educate younger segments of Qatar’s society.
Lastly, the QIFF will also entail an opportunity for small and medium entrepreneurs to introduce their innovative products and provide the space for local farms to offer their produce. In fact, QIFF has dedicated 15% of it spaces to nascent entrepreneurs and/or local SMEs.
(Image Source: Qatar Airways)
On Monday, the Qatar-America Institute hosted members of the Utah State Society for the NBA match between the DC Wizards and Utah Jazz. The Jazz took an early lead against the Wizards and maintained it throughout the match with a strong defense. Guests enjoyed the hospitality of the suite, and discussed their excitement for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
On March 11, 2019, Katara and Qatar-America Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to expand and enhance ties of cooperation in the culture field. The MoU was led by Dr. Khalid Bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti, Katara’s general manager, and by Chase Untermeyer, Qatar-America Institute’s board of advisers chairman and former U.S Ambassador to Qatar.
Dr. al-Sulaiti declared that the MoU will open and create many opportunities for both signatories to collaborate and organize different cultural events such as art exhibitions and mutual publications of research. Furthermore, The MoU includes and envisages scientific projects and social-activities to promote national heritage. Most importantly, Dr. Al-Sulaiti acclaimed the MoU by stating that “the MoU is part of our strategic partnership with the Qatar-America Institute to build cultural bridges between the Qatari and American nations”. In addition, Mr. Untermeyer added that the purpose of the agreement is to spread awareness in the American polity about Qatari culture and to address areas of co-operation in the cultural field.
On February 26th, 2019, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO) will be holding a concert to celebrate 10 years of beautiful symphonic music. The story of the QPO starts with its founding in 2007 by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, and its inaugural concert in 2008, conducted by American maestro Lorin Maazel. Since then, the Orchestra has preformed in many prestigious places all over the world, such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, the opening of the Katara Cultural Village Amphitheatre, and the United Nations General Assembly. World premiers have included both Arabic and Western music: Marcel Khalifé’s Symphony of Return, Rami Khalifé’s Chaos for Piano and Orchestra, and Houtaf Khoury’s Angel of Light Piano Concerto.
The mission of the Qatar Philharmonic, in its own words:
The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra performs and promotes western and Arabic music in order to inspire the children and adults of Qatar and the Arab world to create and enjoy music. The Philharmonic is a member of the Qatar Foundation, which is supporting Qatar on its journey from carbon economy to knowledge economy by unlocking human potential.
The QPO states the importance of its work in “[hosting] new and established composers, soloists and conductors of the Arab world.” Music is an important tool in sharing identity with the rest of the world. It creates peace and understanding between nations, and allows them to more easily relate to each other. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra recognizes this fact, and is celebrating ten years of doing great work in elevating the arts and culture of the Middle East to the global stage.
(Image Source: Qatar Foundation)
In an unusual move, the Emir of Qatar issued an Emiri decree in December of 2011 announcing the creation of a National Sports Day. Presently, Qatar’s National Sports Day acts as an important annual occasion (on the second Tuesday of every February) with the goal of engaging the local community in Qatar with sports activities and fostering the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
The impetus behind the declaration of a National Sports Day also coincides with the launch of Qatar’s National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030). The National Vision serves as a framework for Qatar to achieve an advanced society providing a high standard of living for its residents by the year 2030. The vision has 4 main pillars, with Qatar National Sports Day, primarily aimed at the pillar of Human Development. The other three pillars of QNV 2030 are Economic Development, Environmental Development, and Social Development.
The Human Development pillar specifically states, “The prosperity of any country depends on the health of its people. Qatar aims to build a comprehensive world-class healthcare system that is effective, affordable and universally available to all citizens.” It is common knowledge that leading an active lifestyle with a diet rich in nutrients is vital to one’s health. Yet, urbanization and technical advancements in Gulf countries has resulted in increased obesity in major cities and towns.
Qatar’s National Sports Day also serves a dual purpose. Not only does it aim to supporting the pillar of Human Development, but it also serves to support the pillar of Economic Development. Qatar is increasingly serving as a hub for Sports tournaments in the Middle East. Most famously, the nation will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar has also successfully staged the 2006 Asian Games, the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, and the Qatar ExxonMobil Tennis Open, among several others. Qatar’s aim of serving as a regional hub for sports will not only bring the nation name recognition but will also serve as a basis of a domestic and international sports market, supporting both local entrepreneurs and attracting foreign investment.
(Image Source: Flickr – Jadi)
2022 World Cup host Qatar has won its first ever regional tournament, the Asian Cup. Qatar defeated the four-time previous winner of the Asia Cup, Japan, with a final score of 3 (Qatar) – 1 (Japan). Qatar controlled the dynamic of the match from the onset with a twelfth minute bicycle kick goal by Almoiz Ali – his ninth goal of the tournament. 15 minutes later, Abdulaziz Hatem, scored again for Qatar doubling their lead. In the 69th minute, Japanese forward Takumi Minamino, brought Japan back into the game with 21 minutes left of the game. Qatari player Akram Afif was able to cinch its lead with a penalty kick goal that was awarded following an accidental handball by the Japanese defense.
Qatari goalkeeper Saad el-Sheeb and striker Almoez Ali both received awards for their performances through the tournament. El-Sheeb was awarded the best goalkeeper award and Almoez Ali was awarded both the top goalscorer award and MVP award.
Yet, the question remains, “What did Qatar do to pull off this stunning victory?” Over the years, the small peninsular nation has drastically overhauled and improved its soccer establishment as it prepares to take the field in 3 years for the World Cup. The Qatar national team coach, Felix Sanchez Bas, deserves considerable credit for this accomplishment. Bas, a Spanish football manager, has been intrinsically involved in the formation of the Qatari national team and has previously worked with the under-19, under-20, and under-23 teams. Rather than import players, Bas has chosen to focus on Qatari-born and raised players by working closely with Qatar’s Aspire Academy.
The academy, a state-of-the-art training facility for young athletes, was established in 2004 and later incorporated into a larger umbrella organization, the Aspire Zone Foundation. The academy has been successful in both building and refining Qatari talent producing the likes of Akram Afif (first Qatari to play in Spain’s La Liga) and Abdulkarim Hassan (AFC 2018 player of the year).
Felix Sanchez Bas has chosen to focus on a ‘slow and steady’ strategy so that Qatari players can learn how to perform well under intense pressure gradually. At the start of the tournament, Bas committed to “isolate” the Qatari team from any politics at the Asian Cup. Qatar is currently under an illegal diplomatic and economic blockade by Asia Cup host country, the UAE. Since taking on the head coach position in 2017, Bas has focused on playing friendly international games with middle weight countries like Switzerland and Iceland. He stated in a New York Times article that these teams can teach “what it is to play at a high level, how quickly mistakes are punished.”
However, the credit for Qatar’s maiden victory at the Asia Cup does not lie solely on Felix Sanchez Bas but also on the players that performed wonderfully through the tournament. Sudanese born – Qatari raised Almoez Ali held the limelight by scoring the most goals for a single player. The teams chemistry and strategy has paid off as they now look forward to playing in Brazil for the Copa America tournament. Qatar has several years left to prepare for the 2022 World Cup and has so far brought its game face to the pitch.
(Image Source: Twitter – FIFA)
On January 17, 2019, Qatar-America Institute Cultural Advisor Diana Untermeyer visited the Indiana Council on World Affairs (ICWA) in Indianapolis to discuss “Qatar and its Neighbors.” She joined Bill Clifford, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of America and Melissa Beuc, executive board member of ICWA Board, both of whom recently traveled to Qatar.
In her talk, Ms. Untermeyer discussed the context for the blockade imposed on Qatar in June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt; the resiliency with which Qatar has withstood and even thrived in the midst of the blockade; Qatar’s policy of engagement in the region and its focus on education, sports and culture.
Ms. Untermeyer spoke about her experience living in Qatar from 2004-2007 and attributed Qatar’s resilience to the strong foundation built by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani culminating in the peaceful transfer of power in June 2013 to his well-prepared son, His Highness Sheikh Tamim. In a region known for coups and octogenarians who cling to power, this unprecedented, planned succession sets Qatar apart.
Moreover, the fruits of His Highness Sheikh Hamad’s leadership — including the development of the massive LNG industry, the granting of equal rights to women, the promotion of modern educational and cultural institutions, the founding of Al Jazeera, and a commitment to transparent and inclusive foreign policy — both set the stage for the showdown with the blockading nations and provide the fortitude to withstand it.
The blockade has fast-tracked many endeavors including anti-terrorist money laundering agreements, social and labor reforms, free trade zones, and food security initiatives. It also has strengthened a sense of national pride and caused an outpouring of support for Sheikh Tamim. The iconic image “Tamim the Glorious” now festoons buildings and innumerable windshields.
National service was instituted before the Blockade; however in April 2018, the mandatory time for men was extended from a few months to a full year following graduation from high school. And, women are now allowed to volunteer as well. The decision is so much more important than one might think. Imagine: Women in the military in a traditional Muslim country; youth increasingly differentiated by degrees of wealth and education literally in the trenches together; and a shared sense of discipline should all add up to transformative national unity and individual growth.
In response to lively questioning from the audience about Qatar’s political alignment, Ms. Untermeyer explained that while Qatar remains committed to the GCC and looks forward to a resumption of a strong alliance, their policy has always been to maintain positive and constructive dialogue with all countries, including Iran. While Qatar has disagreements with Iran, they are also neighbors and share the massive gas field. The blockade led to closer ties with Iran. Iran opened their skies providing the sole access for Qatar’s commercial and civilian air traffic. Additionally, Iran provided immediate food relief.
Qatar hopes to normalize relationships with their neighbors but is moving forward with its own vision including the massive infrastructure build up for the 2022 World Cup. Overall, the attitude in Doha is optimistic and full speed ahead.
On January 13th, 2019 the United States and Qatar held the Second U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in Doha under the theme “Forward Together.” Chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the dialogue focused on: regional security and defense cooperation, education and culture, law enforcement and counterterrorism partnerships, commercial and energy cooperation, and labor issues.
This year’s Strategic Dialogue builds on the historic achievements of the First U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, in Washington, D.C., in which Qatar and the U.S. agreed to landmark cooperation in several areas.
A Joint Statement produced by the U.S. and Qatar details the outcome of the dialogue, progress made in key policy areas, and the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Statements of Intent (SOIs) to advance mutual cooperation.
Full Remarks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at a Press Availability (01/13/2019)
Full Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (01/13/2019)
Below is a summary of key developments from the Joint Statement produced at this year’s U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue:
Officials reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing senior-level engagement:
Qatar and the United States expressed strong support for the expansion of bilateral relations evinced by high-level meetings in 2018 between: U.S. President Donald J. Trump and HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani; U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani; U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah; and an exchange of other minister-level visits to Washington and Doha. These high-level diplomatic engagements highlight the two nations’ shared commitment to advance cooperation and promote global peace and prosperity.
The U.S. recognized Qatar’s role as a leader in global humanitarian assistance and development:
The United States acknowledged Qatar’s generous humanitarian role bilaterally and multilaterally through the work of various UN agencies, in the form of a $500 million multi-year assistance pledge, including $8 million annually between 2019 and 2023 to support forcibly displaced populations, and assist refugees including millions of vulnerable young children and women.
Both countries reiterated the essential role the U.S.-Qatar defense partnership serves in international security:
Qatar and the United States emphasized the vital contribution their defense partnership provides for the security and stability of the region. This strong and lasting partnership is key to successfully combating terrorism, countering violent extremism, and deterring external aggression. U.S. officials lauded Qatar’s contributions in supporting the strategic U.S. military presence in Qatar under the U.S. Central Command.
Three key developments in defense were announced:
- The two governments reaffirmed their commitment to the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation to promote peace and stability and counter the scourge of terrorism.
- The United States welcomed Qatar’s generous offer to expand critical facilities at bases used by U.S. forces in the country and to align operating procedures at these bases with NATO standards, thereby increasing the operational capability of U.S. and coalition forces based in Qatar.
- The U.S. and Qatar signed an MOU enabling deeper coordination on potential expansion at Al Udeid Air Base. Qatar’s offers to fund capital expenditures and sustainment affords the possibility of a more enduring U.S. presence.
The U.S. recognized Qatar’s commitments to defeat radical extremism, prevent terrorism finance, and to support U.S. anti-terrorism efforts:
The United States thanked Qatar for its continued efforts to counter terrorism, counter the financing of terrorism, and prevent violent extremism in all forms. Both sides intend to strengthen their security and counterterrorism (CT) partnership to eradicate terrorism and violent extremism. The United States welcomed Qatar’s commitment to provide $75 million over five years to the work of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, including its efforts to help Member States develop and implement advance passenger information and passenger name record systems in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2396.
The forward progress made on several counterterrorism agreements, including the July 11, 2017 MOU on Counterterrorism, was reviewed:
They reviewed the positive progress made under the terms of the MOU on Counterterrorism signed on July 11, 2017, and the second bilateral CT Dialogue convened in Doha September 5, 2018, including the 2018 Joint Action Plan to implement provisions on border security, information sharing, countering the financing of terrorism, anti-money laundering, aviation security, cybersecurity, and judicial capacity building.
A Memorandum of Understanding in education was signed by Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister bin Abdulrahman Al Thani:
The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani signed the MOU in the field of education to continue building and sustaining key partnerships in the fields of: primary, secondary, and higher education; English and Arabic language instruction; student advising; promoting academic exchange; and facilitating a wide range of study abroad options that enable students to achieve their personal and professional goals.
Qatar and the United States welcomed the role of U.S. companies in Qatar’s development and of Qatari investment in U.S. firms and jobs:
The Qatari delegation outlined successful implementation of reforms designed to attract foreign investment in Qatar, including free trade zones and expanding business ownership for non-citizens. Both countries also underscored their commitment to boosting trade and investment and noted the growing strength of bilateral trade relations.
Qatar confirmed that the United States is its top import partner, representing 18% of all imports to Qatar in 2018.
The two governments recognized Qatar Investment Authority’s (QIA) previous commitment to invest $45 billion in American firms, real estate, and jobs. QIA Chief Executive Mr. Mansour al-Mahmoud described plans to increase Qatari investments in American infrastructure.
The United States and Qatar emphasize the importance of their continued partnership which benefits the interests of both countries, as well as the security and prosperity of the Gulf region.
This Strategic Dialogue process underlines the commitment of Qatar and the United States to increase cooperation in fields that provide the greatest mutual and practical benefit. Such cooperation includes the issues discussed today but also incorporates important work in the fields of health, food safety, intellectual property rights, nuclear safeguards and more. Qatar and the United States remain committed to dialogue and long-term cooperation on political issues, consolidating state-of-the-art defense facilities, combating terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms, countering the financing of terrorism, expanding their trade and investment partnerships, and enhancing educational and cultural cooperation.
To expand partnerships and advance mutual policy goals in those areas, the two sides agreed to hold the first working group in April of 2019. Qatar and the United States look forward to reviewing progress in these areas at the next Strategic Dialogue in Washington in 2020.
(Image Source: Middle East Monitor)
The 2018 Doha Forum was held in its namesake city this year from December 15-16, 2018 and brought together key leaders from the international community under the Forum’s theme “Shaping Policy in an Interconnected World.”
The 2018 Doha Forum was launched with an opening address by His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar. His Highness stressed the need for free speech and dialogue between the Gulf countries.
The Financial Times reported on the mission of this year’s Doha Forum:
“The 2018 Doha Forum brought together political figures, thought leaders, governmental agencies, and civic society organizations with the aim of facilitating dialogue about how conscious policymaking can guide us to our global tomorrow. The forum addressed today’s urgent issues and ways the international community can come together to solve them. The forum also highlighted the modern success models and discusses how we can expand on them and replicate them. Through active and responsible global leadership, our possibilities are limitless.”
Below are some highlights of key 2018 Doha Forum developments, events, speeches, and speakers:
- Qatar Announces USD Half Billion in Aide to UN Agencies
Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Qatar Fund for Development today signed agreements with multiple United Nations agencies to support humanitarian, counter-terrorism and relief programs around the world on the sidelines of Doha Forum. The multi-year assistance to ten UN agencies amounts to USD 500 million, including 28 million to the UN Development Program (UNDP), 8 million annually between 2019 and 2023 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4 million annually to UNICEF and 15 million annually to the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC).
- Announcement of the Doha Forum Award
The first Doha Forum Award will be given in 2019 to recognize outstanding achievements in diversity, dialogue and diplomacy, and will be worth half a million US Dollars.
Opening address by HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar:
Keynote address by HE António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations:
- H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Qatar
- H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the United Nations General Assembly
- H.E. Hassan Ali Khaire, Prime Minister, Somalia
- H.E. Teodor-Viorel Meleşcanu,Foreign Minister, Romania
- Wolfgang Ischinger (moderator), Chairman, Munich Security Conference
- Brett McGurk, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS
- Vladamir Voronkov, U.N. Undersecretary General for Counter Terrorism
- Peter Bergen (moderator), Vice President for Global Studies & Fellows, New America Foundation
- H.E. Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, Minister of Finance, Qatar
- H.E. Berat Albayrak, Minister of Treasury and Finance, Turkey
- Christian Sewing, CEO, Deutsche Bank
- Chris Giles (moderator), FT Economics Editor
- Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Minister of State at the Department for International Development
- H.E. Sigmar Gabriel, Member of the Bundestag (Parliament), Former Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
- H.E Dr. Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution
- Ibrahim Kalin, Special adviser to President Erdogan and the Presidential Spokesperson
- Julien Barnes-Dacey (moderator), Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations
- Michael Rich, President, RAND
- Alain Gresh, Editor, OrientXXI
- Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive director, QCRI
- Nicholas Enfield, Director, Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Institute, University of Sydney
- Steve Clemons (moderator), Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic
- H.E. Moussa Mara, Former Prime Minister of Mali
- Yéro Boly, Former Defense Minister, Burkina Faso
- Hannah Armstrong, Senior Sahel Consultant, International Crisis Group
- Phillip Carter III, Consultant, The Mead Hill Group, Former US Ambassador to Ivory Coast
- Rinaldo Depagne (moderator), West Africa Project Director, International Crisis Group
Her Excellency Sheikha Hind Bint Hamad Al Thani, the CEO of the Qatar Foundation, published an editorial in Quartz yesterday on women’s rights and empowerment in Qatar. In it, she addressed the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, and dispelled the misconception that women’s empowerment in the Middle East and Arab World are categorically worse than in the West. She highlighted the high volume of female participation in STEM fields compared to the U.S., as well as the fact that the female labor participation rate in Qatar is above the global average.
“[I]t fills me with pride to walk into boardrooms at the Foundation and know that 40% of the leadership working at the 5,000-strong organization is female.” – Her Excellency Sheikha Hind Bint Hamad Al Thani
Qatar has the highest female labor participation rate in the Arab World, and women comprise a majority of the students in its higher education system. While Sheikha Hind acknowledges that there is still room for further progress in Qatar, gender relations in the country provide a profound example for the world of how societal progress can be achieved without sacrificing cultural traditions.