The weather in Doha is changing for the better! That means it is the best time to go to the beach as after 3-4 weeks, it would be too cold to take a swim. So we decided to do just that. Last Friday, we went to Dukhan Water Sports Club. As an employee of a “Q” company, I was able to get membership which I pay about 300++QR per year. The trip is about 45 minutes from Doha but it’s definitely worth it. Anyway, with our friends in tow, we left the apartment at past 8:00 in the morning and after the tedious repetitions of Inuyasha’s “I Am” theme song in the car, we arrived before 9. We were probably averaging 120kmph/hour.
We were bringing Xiane’s kite so it was good that it was a bit windy as we didn’t have a difficult time trying to make it fly. We didn’t stay too long in the beach though as what I was after was really the pool. So from 10 AM to 1:00 PM, we just stayed and swam in the pool. Refreshing! Although we planned to stay till 4 PM, as we we not bringing any food, we decided to leave earlier so we can just eat in Doha. The first plan was to just buy pizza but Mavis suggested we cook some spam and eggs, open some tuna and sardines, and cook white rice. We all agreed and I started to prepare the moment we got home. A feast it was!
If we have time, I’d probably go to the beach again before the “winter” months arrive. Enjoy the weather while it is this good!
If Bahrain and Kuwait can do it, why can’t Qatar?
Kuwait will scrap its controversial sponsorship system in February, the social affairs and labour minister has said.
“We will eliminate the sponsorship system in February to coincide with the launch of the labour affairs authority,” Mohammad Al Afassi said. “This will be our gift to expatriates on the occasion of Liberation Day,” he was quoted as saying by the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai newspaper.
Al Afassi has been spearheading a drive to do away with a system that has often been described as modern-day slavery.
Under the system, foreigners cannot enter, work in, switch jobs in or leave a Gulf country without the approval of a sponsor who has full control over their movements.
The system has come under heavy criticism by local and international organisations which have called for its elimination. However, business communities have forcefully lobbied in support of the sponsorship system.
Bahrain in 2009 became the first Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member to allow foreigners to switch jobs without the approval of their sponsors.
The move was decried by businesses who warned that it would harm the economy, but the Labour Ministry refused to change its stance.
Reactions to Al Afassi’s statement about the elimination of the system were mostly positive among bloggers.
“We thank the minister for his humanitarian touch and his compliance with religious tenets that forbid exploiting people,” a blogger named Abdul Hamid wrote.
However, those who opposed the move said that the elimination of the system would compound problems.
“Now, a foreigner can leave his work and work elsewhere regardless of financial commitments or the employer’s rights,” wrote a blogger named Saud.
“This decision is obviously dictated by foreign forces and we resent it. Who will be made to assume the consequences? Employers have rights and they should not be overlooked,” he wrote.
Al Afassi has often said that Kuwait wanted to end abuses by work and residence visa traffickers by eliminating the system and promoting the Labour Affairs Authority to help boost the local labour market.
Foreigners make up around two thirds of Kuwait’s total population of 3.3 million people.
After months of planning and preparing stuff for the visa application, we can finally say that we are going to Tokyo for a short R&R! I’m not sure if it would actually be considered as an R&R as Tokyo is a bustling city and rest and relaxation isn’t really synonymous with Tokyo per se. It would be a holiday filled with walks, eating, shopping and more eating and walking.
The plan was brought up several months ago as I found out that some of my QMiles from Qatar Airways were expiring. At first, we thought of spending the expiring miles for a trip in the Middle East which would still retain bulk of my QMiles so the idea of going to Morocco was brought up. Well, years ago, Mavis and I wanted to go to the US for a holiday but it seemed that a holiday there would be one of those typical holidays we usually have. However, since going to Morocco or the U.S. meant spending money anyway, I decided to see if a holiday in Tokyo would be feasible. I’d rather stay in a place I’d really love to go to. The call of Japan’s culture and technology weighed more to me than of the U.S. And with Xianelle’s vote, Mavis was outnumbered 2 to 1! Using 45,000 QMILES for Xiane and I, and spending Mavis’ own Qmiles, I booked us tickets to Japan for free, though I had to pay some taxes of course. So to Japan we go!…in November.
I first looked at going to Osaka, visit Nara and then taking the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo but after some research, I think it’s best to just limit our trip to Tokyo at this point. I also looked at the requirements for visas and prepared them for submission. As for Filipinos and other nationalities, one is required to get a Visa before one lands in Japan. One of the more pressing requirement in the Visa application is confirmation of the hotel/apartment you are going to stay in for the duration of the trip so I had to contact a number of hotels and apartments. A 3 star hotel would roughly cost you a minimum of 8,000 Yen per person.That’s right, while typical hotels would charge you on a per room, per night basis, hotels in Japan would charge by head. Since Xiane is now 7 years old, hotels in Japan were to charge her too! That meant 24,000 Yen per night…hmm..that’s about QR1092 per night! It does pay off to do some hard work and research. Hopefully, the apartment I got is cheaper yet complete with amenities. It includes a combination washer/dryer, iron w/board, hangers, vacuum, bath tub, scale, hair dryer, towels, gas stove (2 burners), refrigerator/freezer, rice cooker, microwave, hot water pot, pots/pans/plates, silverware/cooking utensils, large screen TV, DVD/VCR, CD player, telephone/fax, high-speed internet and one of those Japanese super toilets! I’m crossing my fingers that the advertised photos would exactly be what we’d see when we get there! With the apartment booked, next would be the itinerary.
A full itinerary is required to be submitted along with the Flight Confirmation, Hotel Booking Confirmation, 6 month bank statement, salary certificate, original passports plus the filled application forms with a 2×2 photo. I made a list of things we want to see and areas we could take on each day and created a rough but doable itinerary. We might be doing Disneyland and DisneySea (the only DisneySea in the world!) for 4 days and other days would be spent in Akihabara, Ueno, Odaiba, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Roponggi, Hamamatsucho while having Akihabara as our base. All these can be reached using Japan’s intricate web of train system! Probably comparable to Hong Kong’s subway system multiplied by 10!
Carrying all the requirements, we went to the Japanese Embassy in Corniche, past the Four Seasons Hotel. The lady told us to wait as she checked our papers and after probably 10 minutes, we were told to call after 3 business days to get our passports back. We didn’t really want to assume that it meant our visas are going to be approved so we just waited. On my Birthday, September 28, I got a call from the Japanese embassy telling me that my Visa got approved, while Xiane and Mavis needed to submit lighter colored background photo for themselves. Yes! That meant that we did get our visas approved! And passing the requirements the same day, we got our passports and Japanese Visas the following day!
What’s next? A lot of planning… transportation, places we’d be interested in, a Disney itinerary, a more. I usually do the planning and itineraries every time we go on such a holiday but this time, I’ve asked Mavis to have a a couple of areas that she has to research on and be our “tour guide” for some days. That’ll help me out on planning the “plan of attack” for Disney as it seems it is always crowded there and we want to get the most of our trip and enjoy the best rides it has to offer. Now it seems that the next 42 days would be spent planning, planning and planning… and hoping that everything pushes through!
After learning that Mission Impossible 4 by Tom Cruise would have parts of the film shot in Dubai, it immediately reminded me of Transformer: The Movie wherein Qatar was supposed to be where the US forces were attacked. I think it was the first time that Qatar was mentioned in a movie of that magnitude and people who were watching were wondering if Qatar indeed was a real country/place or a made up one. So it seems that MI:4 being shot in Dubai is a double-bladed edge for Dubai to get some money from the shoot and to keep its name afloat in the world. Qatar should then be inviting big name Hollywood stars and companies to start doing their films here.
Scenes for the new Mission: Impossible movie will be filmed in Dubai, the emirate’s government media office announced today.
“The latest installment of the globally renowned action thriller ‘Mission: Impossible,’ starring Tom Cruise, will be filmed in Dubai within the coming few weeks,” the statement said.
“Filming in Dubai would be the longest among other international cities that will feature in MI4.” Shooting there is expected to last at least three weeks.
To be directed by Brad Bird, the fourth film in the franchise stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Vladimir Mashkov and Michael Nyqvist. It is scheduled to hit theaters on December 16, 2011.
It’s been months since people in Qatar have been clamoring for the iPhone 4 to come to Qatar shores and last night, Vodafone has “officially” brought it here. The iPhone 4 is actually being sold in different shops and stores in Qatar albeit for a steep price. the 16 GB was being sold for 4000QR and the 32 GB for almost twice it’s actual price if bought in Europe, Canada or Asia where it is being sold unlocked.
I’m quite interested with the prices the Vodafone Qatar is set to sell the iPhone 4 as last year, when they launched the 3GS, their tag line was “run (to their stores) and don’t walk”. With the prices that they were selling it for, people were not running to their stores yet walking away from them. This time, I think they made a right move and placing their prices more competitive than those bought online, or through other channels. Here is their offer for the iPhone 4.
iPhone 4 Black 16 GB – Special Offer
* iPhone 4 16 GB Black
* Flexi 220 on Freedom
* Mobile Internet on Freedom
* Welcome Pack
iPhone 4 Black 32 GB – Special Offer
* iPhone 4 32 GB Black
* Flexi 220 on Freedom
* Mobile Internet on Freedom
* Welcome Pack
As you can see, their bundle offer is very good. Buying the iPhone 4 without a contract in Europe would almost cost the same plus you have to pay shipping and no warranty support. Buying in Canada would be about QR3950 plus shipping. For those people wanting prices the same as the US where you pay around $99 to $299, you have to remember that those are being offered with a number of years contract, meaning you have to pay a monthly fee for some years. Plus it is locked only to that carrier. You won’t be able to use it in your country of anywhere else.
So, good work Vodafone for bringing the iPhone here. And for those wanting to get one, with enough budget for it, I suggest that you do run to their stores before the iPhone 4 runs out. Or you can order online here: