Monday, March 16, 2009

Tornado Outside My Apartment

So, I got your attention.

The Tornado Tower, under construction and seen (in my photos) from the parking lot outside my residential tower (t) and then today (b),the residence tower on the farthest left. [Please note: clicking on the image and moving the wheel on the mouse, brings the image even closer... click on my image of the finished structure and at the bottom you'll see the street and the rocks etc as if you were standing with me.] The Tower is visible from the west side of my apartment, bedrooms and living room. Rumor has it that something moves or flashes violently - when it does I will be unable to escape this tornado.

As the Peninsula writes

West Bay’s landmark structure Tornado Tower was illuminated (using state-of-the-art LED technology) catching the attention of everybody who passed through the Corniche last night. Tornado Tower, developed by Qatar Investment Projects and Development Holding Company, is a 52-storey elegant structure offering 58,000 sqm of commercial facilities. The major attraction of the tower is its sky view cafĂ© on the 28th floor

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today's News

Interesting news today on a number of fronts, and I add the local weather since it is so different from the U.S. and Europe. All reports from today's online The Peninsula

Qatar bucks global trend; GDP up 44pc
By Mohamed Saeed
DOHA: Showing exemplary resilience to the global recessionary pressure which began mounting late last year, the Qatari economy grew substantially in the fourth and last quarter of 2008 to QR83.2bn, from QR77.2bn in the corresponding period the previous year. more ...

Doha to host Green Building conference
DOHA: Property developers, architects, urban designers and providers of green technologies will converge here for a three-day conference on “Middle East Qatar Green Buildings 2009”, slated to start on March 17, 2009. more ...

LNG vessels can ferry fresh water back: Expert

by Mobin Pandit
DOHA: Qatar can access fresh water in bulk from European and other countries using the large fleet of liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels which ferry its natural gas to destinations around the world, says an LNG industry expert from Paris.

To carry fresh water back to Doha from LNG-receiving destinations, all Qatar needs to do is carry out minor modifications to the LNG vessels, said Damien Feger, Vice-President, LNG and Shipping, of ‘New Generation, Natural Gas’, a Paris-based company. more ...

and a related story
Qatar’s LNG capacity to rise: Official
By Nasser Al Harthy
DOHA: Qatar will account for nearly 50 percent of the 95.3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of new global production capacity by the end of 2012, according to a gas industry expert.

Andy Flower, an independent consultant specialising in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) business, said the period to the end of 2012 will see an unprecedented volume of new liquefaction capacity come on stream with Qatar taking the lead as its six 7.8 mtpa trains are commissioned. more ...

Doha to host World Petroleum Congress in 2011
By Nasser Al Harthy
DOHA: The World Petroleum Council Executive Committee yesterday announced that the Qatar National Convention Centre is the venue of choice to hold the prestigious 20th World Petroleum Congress in December 2011. Abdulreda Nayroze Abdulla Hassan, Qatar Petroleum Lead Coordinator for the 20th World Petroleum Congress said the theme will be ‘Energy Solutions for All Promoting Cooperation, Innovation and Investment’ which will focus the debate on solutions aimed at providing global access for all to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy in both the near and long term future. more ...

very brief regional business news
Syria launches first stock exchange
DAMASCUS: Syria launched its first stock exchange yesterday after years of delays, in the latest step to liberalise the country’s largely state-controlled economy. Finance Minister Mohammed Al Hussein rang the trading bell at a formal launch ceremony for the Damascus Securities Exchange, which will be open for trading two days a week.

and finally, the weather, also very brief since there is so little of it,
Dusty winds to hit Qatar today
DOHA: The country will experience strong dusty winds today due to an extending ridge of high pressure that was expected to hit Qatar around midnight. The temperature would dip to reach an average of 27 degrees Celsius and the visibility might go down to 1,000 metres or less in open areas.

And I can attest to the visibility even within the city where the high rises were swathed in dusty haze and barely visible as I approached downtown after work today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gulf Banking in these times or as the world goes ...

From Today's Gulf Times
Qatar steps in to boost bank sector
The Qatar government has decided to purchase the investment portfolios of seven Qatari banks Qatar yesterday launched new measures to support its banking sector with a government plan to buy banks’ investment portfolios in a bid to revive lending and support the economy, sending financial shares soaring. “The government is studying a system to take these shares from banks, which will help increase lending,” Prime Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency.

The emergency measure, the second in Qatar, underscores how the global financial crisis has smashed hopes that the energy-exporting Gulf Arab region would escape due to its petroleum revenues and massive sovereign savings. Qatar bank shares leapt over 9%, driving the Doha bourse up 8.85%, its biggest gain since October 14.
“This is great news for the markets,” said Haissam Arabi, chief executive of Gulfmena Alternative Investments, a regional specialist hedge fund company. “By taking away the investment portfolios of the banks, the banks do not have to provision for any losses and can take it away from their books. It boosts their solvency and supports them.” Banks included in the plan are Qatar National Bank (QNB), Commercialbank, Doha Bank, Qatar Islamic Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank, Ahli Bank and Al Khalij Commercial Bank, according to a government statement issued by the Doha bourse.

Already in October, Qatar launched a $5.3bn plan to buy 10% to 20% of banks’ listed capital to mitigate the impact of the crisis. “This measure will improve the risk profile of banks and remove volatility in share trading,” said Kapil Chadda, managing director of global banking at HSBC Qatar. “If you compare Qatar to some other countries in the region, Qatar has been the most proactive in taking precautionary measures so that any risk does not snowball.” The share purchase process will be completed before the end of March in co-ordination with Qatar Central Bank, the government statement said. Qatari bank officials welcomed the move. “It brings us market stability, supports us for growth and improves liquidity. It is also going to improve the earning capacity of banks,” Doha Bank chief executive R Seetharaman said.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wedding in Qatar

Last evening I attended the Wedding Dinner of a colleague of mine. An American, she had married a Qatar life-long resident of Egyptian descendent born in Palestine. His extended family lives in Qatar, as does his former wife and his children of the first marriage, now in their twenties. Only native Qataris have citizenship; birth and marriage cannot make a citizen. In the instance of Palestinain born people, they have no statehood. Something I learned from another colleague of mine, herself Palestinain, who must travel annually to Egypt (her mother is Egyptian) to secure necessary paperwork to allow her to continue her residency and work in Qatar, where she has lived most her life.

But the wedding is the topic here. As I learned, a Qatari marriage is essentially the signing of a set of contracts between the man and woman. Probably some boilerplate, but in this instance, firmly written in was the ability of the wife to work (she teaches biology at the College) and the fact that any children would be raised Muslim even if they divorce. She is not converting. The contracts had been signed the previous week and last night was the wedding dinner. A large band of native dressed arabs escorted the bride and groom (or husband and wife) from her house in the compound in which she lives (and to which he is moving) to the compound clubhouse. Great noise and a slow procession, a few shots of which are shown here. In all case the Native-dressed gentlesmen proceeded the man and wife in two files, looking back as if to make certain they were following, until at the end they paused as the couple proceeded them into the reception. The photgraphs of the standing man and woman are taken during the procession. It was dark and the crowd was moving so the photos are not the best. The other tenants in the compound were remarkably tolerant of the noise and in fact came out to watch and cheer the procession on.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quranic Garden

Today the Gulf Times, in two articles, reports on the plans for a botanical garden in Qatar. The first article caught my attention because it referenced Education City.

The proposed Quranic Garden at Education City will be one of the Arab region’s “most important biodiversity conservation projects”, a top Unesco official said. Dr Benno Boer, ecological sciences adviser for Unesco Arab region at the Doha office, said the project aimed at displaying all natural plant species from Qatar and the Arabian Peninsula.
“It is an achievement that the project had reached this stage in a relatively short time. This demonstrates the commitment of Her Highness (Sheikha Mozah Nasser al-Misnad) and the essential partner organisations – Qatar Foundation, Maersk Oil Qatar and the Unesco”, the official said, at the first international forum on the Quranic Botanical Garden, yesterday.

The second article elaborated on the importance and tied the development into the current trend in improved use of traditional herbal medicine.
Most of the new drugs entering the market these days are based on natural products, a Malaysian minister said.
Speaking at an international forum on the Quranic Botanical Garden, Dr Halimah Ali, Malaysia’s state minister of education and higher education, said 60% of drugs that entered the market between 1981-02 were either natural products or based on these. Some 78% of antibiotic and 74% of anti-cancer drugs too had natural roots, she said, asserting that “botanical gardens are the way forward to reveal the ultimate knowledge in the Holy Qur’an”.
The current trend in drug development is improved use of traditional herbal medicines, she told the conference, organised by Qatar Foundation.
Speaking on drug discoveries, Halimah said the process had been relatively straightforward as the biologically active substance discovered in nature is isolated and identified.
In the last year and a half I have visited two related botanical Gardens, Kew Gardens in London and its country cousin Wakehurst Place. In the latter is the
the Millennium Seed Bank Project. It opened in 2000 and is an integral part of the Wakehurst Place visitor experience, together with the Mansion and gardens.

As well as providing space to store thousands of seed samples in a large underground vault, the building includes advanced seed research and processing facilities, and a state of the art exhibition about seed conservation.

Some of the diversity of UK native flora is shown in the eight exterior parterres, which show habitats from the seashore to the uplands. ... The UK Programme has already collected seed from over 95% of the UK's native higher plants. This is the first time that any country has underpinned the conservation of its flora in this way.

Kew gardens itself is a wealth of plants and information.
Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a multi-purpose activity, supporting the institution's research programme and balancing this with a high-quality visitor amenity. Our unrivalled living collections represent a resource for botanical science world-wide, whether for pure scientific purposes or those with economic potential. Most important of all, the living collections and the horticultural skill that cares for them are a resource for ex situ conservation of plant diversity and its integration with habitat restoration and species reintroduction.
more ...

I present some photos from Kew Gardens since there are none yet of the Quaranic Garden, just now in planning.