Friday, July 31, 2009

Weather in this part of the world

From The Peninsula, July 31
Dust chokes sweltering Doha
By Satish Kanady

DOHA: A strong dust storm hit Qatar yesterday, adding to the woes of the people already struggling to cope with an intense heat wave. The sandstorm drastically reduced visibility, causing difficulties to motorists during the early hours. Hospitals and clinics in Doha witnessed an increase in the number of patients reporting respiratory problems.

The storm hit the city early in the morning and settled around 9.30am before gaining strength by 11am. After a two-hour respite, another wave of the dust storm hit the country around 4pm. The bad weather forced many families to stay indoors as strong winds whipped up dust and sand, creating a dust haze in the city for long hours.

The city’s otherwise busy markets and shopping malls were virtually deserted in the morning due to the heat and dust. Motorists were forced to slow down on the city’s major thoroughfares due to the poor visibility. Many vehicles were seen plying with their headlights on. Though visibility was reportedly reduced at Doha International Airport, there was no official confirmation of flights being delayed or re-scheduled.

The thick dust haze brought work at many construction sites to a standstill for a few hours in the morning. Workers at project sites in the West Bay area were seen running for cover from the dust-laden winds.

Officials in the meteorological department said the bad weather was caused by high pressure that had developed over the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia and was moving towards the east. The dusty conditions will continue till tomorrow. Visibility is expected to be reduced to one kilometre or less at times, the weathermen said.

Driving home last evening (to the above mentioned West Bay area), three to four kilometers outside the city, there was no city to be seen. Only as the distance closed to 1-2 km did the buildings, surrounded by grey dust, begin to become visible.

I offer two pairs of views outside my living room window: in each pair, the clear one was taken on the 27th; the second taken on the 30th. As the weatherman in the Perninsula indicates, the weather continues thick and dusty today with virtually no visibility.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Science, Research and History in the News

In today's Gulf Times is an interesting article about arab science and research, Whither Arab science and research? Set in the context of what Qatar has underway with Education City, the Qatar Science and Technology Park, biomedical research at the Medical School and Sidra Hospital and Research Center, as well as the funding offered for research by the Qatar National Research Fund, it makes for interesting reading.
Why is it that a region that was once the world’s scientific powerhouse has now become its outhouse? In an article last year, I explored some of the reasons which included: “The dominant patronage culture in academia, the shortage of research funding, the almost complete absence of private research, the difficulty of registering and protecting intellectual property, as well as the rote-based education system.”
Some experts observe that Islam’s scientific heritage equips Muslims to look positively upon modern science. In fact, many Muslims believe that modern science confirms the Qur’an.
“In those countries where fundamentalism has taken hold among the youth in the universities, it is striking to observe that the fundamentalist students are in a majority in the scientific institutions,” says Farida Faouzia Charfi, a science professor at the University of Tunis. “(Islamists) want to govern society with ideas of the past and the technical means of modernity.”
But this selective interest in science is a double-edged sword because it encourages people to disregard inconvenient scientific truths if they conflict with or contradict their faith. Attitudes aside, another important factor that is often missing from the equation is the simple question of resources.
I think it’s no coincidence that the start of Europe and the West’s golden age and the Arab and Muslim world’s gradual decline occurred at about the time when Muslims ceded their grip on global trade to Europeans who also “discovered” a resource-rich “new world” in the process.

The full article is available here.

A page later in the newspaper, we read of
a special session devoted solely to the archaeology of Qatar [that] was held at the British Museum on Friday, as part of the Seminar for Arabian Studies which takes place annually, when recent research into such diverse topics as archaeology, history and ancient languages and epigraphy is presented and discussed. Archaeologists working in Qatar this year gave half-hour presentations on their findings, on sites ranging from the Iron Age graves at Umm al-Maa to the old trading and pearling town of Al Zubara.

The full article is available here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Current Events July 18-19

A round-up of some very local news, with a heavy emphasis on crime. Or, Life and Law in Qatar

Civic authorities shut restaurant for serving stale food
DOHA: Municipal authorities cracked the whip on a famous foreign restaurant in the city and pulled its shutters down for a month after they found its staff was serving stale food items for profiteering.

Civic inspectors discovered during a raid that the items served to customers at this eatery were not fit for human consumption as stocks stored for cooking were found to have far jumped their expiry dates.

The items were seized and the manager of the eatery was referred for legal action. A notice was served and the municipality concerned ordered its closure for a month and imposed a fine as well. more ... [although no mention of the restaurant]

40 lashes for man convicted of drinking in public
The Gulf Times July 19
An Arab engineer, who has been convicted of drunkenness in a public place, has been sentenced to 40 lashes by a Doha court. The judge dismissed his claim that he could not differentiate between water and wine (writes Nour Abuzant).
The Moroccan Muslim told the court that he got intoxicated after he went for dinner with his French colleagues and they offered him a drink that he thought was water.
He was arrested when the car, carrying him and his French colleagues, m et with an accident. The traffic police noticed that he was vomiting and there was a stench of alcohol in the atmosphere. He was taken to the Rayyan police in an unconscious state. … full story

Illicit affair lands couple in prison
The Gulf Times July 19
By Nour Abuzant
A Doha court has sentenced a man and a woman to one-year imprisonment and subsequent deportation following their conviction of maintaining illicit relations.
The court heard that the pair, a Palestinian man and a Filipina, used to meet in the man’s car. … more

Motorist gets two years, 40 lashes for death crash
The Gulf Times July 19
By Nour Abuzant

A motorist has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and 40 lashes for driving under the influence of liquor and causing an accident that claimed the lives of two Asians, last summer.
The traffic police report submitted to a Doha court of first instance said the accused was driving recklessly under the influence of alcohol, and because of his recklessness he hit a bicycle carrying the two Indians, killing them both on the spot. more ...

Woman who killed maid escapes death sentence after blood money deal accepted

The Peninsula/ By Abdullah Abdulrahman
DOHA: An expatriate woman who had to face the firing squad for stabbing her housemaid to death had a lucky escape as the family of the deceased has agreed to accept blood money and pardon her.

She will now be sentenced to 15 years in jail. The convict is pregnant and is in her early thirties. It so happened that the Industrial Area police got a call on the day of the incident saying that a maid employed by an expatriate household had committed suicide. more ...

Air-conditioned bus shelter set for trials
DOHA: Mowasalat, in collaboration with a private media company, is establishing the first air-conditioned bus shelter in the country in Lusail. The facility will function on a trial basis, a senior Mowasalat official said.

The state-owned company is awaiting approval from higher authorities for establishing more such facilities across the country, Ahmed Al Ansari, Mowasalat’s business development director, told The Peninsula. more...

Qatar witnesses substantial rise in use of ozone depleting substances
The Peninsula. / BY SATISH KANADY
DOHA: Qatar has witnessed a quantum jump in the consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) over the last four years. The country’s total consumption of ODS has touched a high 60380.05 metric tonnes during the year 2008 against 294.37 tones in 2004, revealed the annual environment abstract report released by Qatar Statistical Authority (QSA). more...

Need for more desalination plants: report

July 19 Gulf Times:
In view of Qatar’s rapid economic development and urban expansion besides a steady increase in population, more than half the quantum of water required for the country will have to be from desalination plants, says an investigative report published in a local Arabic daily.
There has been a three-fold increase in the output of desalinated water since 1995. The total volume produced in 2008 was to the tune of 321 million cubic metres. But it is not adequate to cover the individual level of consumption.
There is an imperative need to educate the public on the need to economise and be self disciplined in the use of water. 
Such a restraint from the public will go a long way in reducing the fear of water scarcity in the future. 
Qatar has two main under ground water tables: one in the Shemal (north) and the other in the south. However, due to the paucity in rainfall these water tables do not get replenished.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Extreme Construction: Mosque of Domes

From Today's Gulf Times we read that
The State Mosque, an ambitious project launched by Qatar in Al Khuwair, will be one of the largest in the world upon completion, Gulf Times has learnt.
The “Mosque of Domes”, as it is commonly called because of the 99 domes it contains, is large enough to accommodate up to 12,000 worshippers in the main prayer hall, in addition to 8,000 more in the open courtyard, a source associated with the project told Gulf Times.
“It is set to be one of the biggest (mosques) in the world; fifth biggest, I believe,” the source said.
The closely-guarded project is being built under the supervision of the Private Engineering Office at the Emiri Diwan, the source said, adding that the mosque would have traditional Qatari features incorporated into its design, “as opposed to a modern look”.
“It is strictly based on local roots and heritage. There was a Qebab mosque (Mosque of Domes) in Qatar. This project is essentially a larger version of that ancient structure,” the source said.
The State Mosque has 28 large domes, in addition to 71 smaller ones surrounding the open courtyard, totalling 99 in all. Although those involved in the project said they were not given the reason for those many domes, an Islamic scholar yesterday said the relationship could be to the 99 names of Allah.
“The sole minaret, which will also have an observatory overlooking the Gulf, is expected to be 65.55m tall including the crescent,” the source said.
Officials contacted by Gulf Times could not give a timeframe for the opening of the mosque.
Different people gave dates ranging from this November to one year from now.

The location is on the north coast of Qatar, slightly south west of the center tip. When the weather improves I'll visit and see if I can get close at all, since they refer to it as a closely-guarded project. The Hassan II mosque in Casablanca and featured in this slideshow, by comparison, has space for 25,000 worshippers inside and another 80,000 outside. The 210-meter minaret is the tallest in the world and is visible day and night for miles around. As the Mosque of DOmes develops I will be looking specifically to see the "traditional Qatari features incorporated into its design, 'as opposed to a modern look.'” I will also be very interested in seeing and, if possible, entering the observatory in the minaret. Imagine looking across the Persian Gulf into Iran, left toward the end of the Persian Gulf at Kuwait and Iraq, and right toward the Straits of Hormuz from this point. What a vista!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Extreme Construction

All across the city of Doha construction is intense. Around Education City, in the west of Doha where I work, heavy trucks routinely fill the roads and round-abouts, and the number of cranes is extraordinary, as the Qatar Foundation rushes to put in place the building for Northwestern, the newest U.S. institution to join us, and Sidra Hospital, our teaching hospital. Other construction there includes a convention center and planned secondary schools.

From Education City east to the Corniche older buildings are coming down and new ones going up. On all sides of my apartment building, 14 km east of Education City and just off the Corniche, is intense construction. My apartment itself faces north with many city buildings between it and the bay to the north. Chief among them is the large low City Center Mall that does not obstruct the view to more buildings and water, as is clear from the images. Between the mall and my apartment is a construction zone whose divisions suggest three separate planned buildings. Recently heavy machinery and sounds and views of very active construction in the center zone have entered our lives, at least as early as 4:30 in the morning and later than 10:00 at night. I have not tested if it ever stops. The opening image, taken last evening, was shot, of course, from within my apartment, as were the next three.

The image below shows the construction site in early March of this year when there was no obvious activity.

The third image shows the site during the day in late June and the fourth image, cut from the lower right of the June photo, offers a rendition of the building that is under construction and for which the intense foundation effort is now underway. It is called the Doha Convention Center and Tower and the picture shows a large low building and a great tower.

Wikipedia reports the following, indicating it will be the 6th tallest building in the world. The news of suspension of construction reported below may now be superseded by activity outside my windows. We shall see.
The Doha Convention Center Tower is a skyscraper under construction in Doha, Qatar. The tower is expected to be 551m (1808 ft) tall and have 112 floors. The status of construction is that the steel frame is under assembly, and, when that stage is finished, the glass cladding will be started. The estimated completion date is 2012. In 2009, the CTBUH [Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats] informed on its website, that construction on the tower has been suspended. When completed it shall be the sixth tallest building in the world. It will preceed the Abraj Al Bait Towers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and surpass the 1 World Trade Center in New York City, New York.

Although I see nothing on the CTBUH web site recently about the tower under discussion here, I do see that its latest newsletter reports on the Kamal Tower now planned for Doha. You can see images of this planned building here.

It appears that, once in place, the tower in my frontyard, so to speak, will be strategically located so as to block the view from my apartment of my favorite building - the copper sheathed structure with the silver ball – seen in the images above across the construction zone and the other side of the City Center.

This fascinating building appears as well in the last image here, taken in March 2008 from the front of the City Center.

On March 16 of this year I posted an entry on the very large building just south of my building, my backyard so to speak. It is called The Tornado and today, the 12th of July, a regional newspaper, The Gulf Times, reports it
"has been awarded the 2009 accolade for Best Tall Building in the Middle East and Africa by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). This is the first time that any building in Qatar has won such a prestigious award."
The article indicates that
"The principle criteria used by the CBTUH awards committee to form their judgment for these awards, is based on the projects displaying extraordinary contribution to the advancement of tall buildings, bringing fresh ideas and innovative processes which would not only help advance the profession of design but also, improve the ambiance and the well-being of the inhabitants of the cities where they have been constructed."
It cites specifically
"One of the highlights of the 200-m high Tornado Tower is its spectacular external lighting system created by renowned light artist Thomas Emde. The system is capable of displaying 35,000 different combinations that will further enhance the hyperboloid structure of the tower, based on desert storm concept design."
And this outside my bedroom window! The full article is available here. I add a photo of mine taken in October 2008. It shows The Tornado in proximity to my apartment building,furthest on the left. To the right, of course, is The Tornado.