As we head into the home-stretch of 2017, let’s take a moment to reflect back on all we’ve gone through together as a community and a nation over the last 12 months. We’ve cheered on our collective successes, stood tall in the face of adversity, supported one another during some very uncertain times, and – most of all, reminded ourselves of our shared joys and all we have to celebrate in this country we call home.
Here’s our 2017 Qatar Year In Review recap of some of the milestones, achievements, challenges, and firsts Qatar experienced in just one short, yet historical year.
Little did we know that the inaugural edition of the Shop Qatar festival would end up being one of the biggest events to kick off 2017! With weekly raffle draws and cash prizes of up to QR 4 million, the country’s largest retail celebration saw nearly a dozen of Qatar’s top malls and retail complexes participate, and drew world-class entertainment to Doha. The month-long shopping extravaganza also brought an estimated QR 1.06 billion from inbound tourism during the festival. And the best part? Shop Qatar is back for 2018 from January 7-February 7.
2017 saw some of Qatar’s largest retail and entertainment metropolises open their doors to an eager public! From Doha Festival City, which is home to more than 500 retail outlets, 100 food and dining venues, and four dedicated theme parks (Angry Birds World and Snow Dunes anyone? We can’t wait!), to the continued expansion of the iconic Mall of Qatar, and the openings of Q-Mall, Tawar Mall, B-Squared Mall, and the luxury Al Hazm Mall in 2017, Qatar was firmly on the map as a go-to shopping and entertainment hub in the GCC.
Qatar was abuzz in February as word spread like wildfire that South African comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah was set to make his Qatar début at the Doha Comedy Festival! The winter edition of the annual event was held from February 2-4, capping off the month-long Shop Qatar Festival. Organized by the ILQ Network’s The Social Studio, the comedy event of the year also featured our own Qatari Guy, Hamad Al Amari, and a host of Arab talent from across the Middle East and more. Needless to say the nation was star-struck and with good reason, as Noah brought the laughs to QNCC!
One of world’s biggest YouTube stars – fouseyTUBE hopped a plane back in June and brought his 2.6 million subscribers on a visit to Qatar that they wouldn’t soon forget! Causing a social media mob during a meet-and-greet at the Mall of Qatar, Fousey tore up Qatar in his imitable style – racing a super-car against an Arabian stallion at Losail, hitting up the Souq and more with his usual antics! Without a doubt this was one of Qatar’s top 2017 celebrity highlights!
(Photo credit: Al Jazeera)
June 5, 2017 is indelibly marked in our collective memory. Waking up to the news that four neighbouring countries, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt – nations we called our friends and allies – had cut all diplomatic ties, shut their airspace, closed off trade routes with Qatar, and split families apart, we moved through those early days in an almost stunned disbelief, leaning on one another for support amidst a future that seemed anything but certain.
But from the broken ties came new bonds that made us stronger. We would not bow to the demands of the blockading countries; we found support and solace in new allies in unlikely places – Turkey and Iran; and new truths were brought to light about the orchestration of the May 2017 hacking of the Qatar News Agency. And now, as the blockade drags on into its 6th month, we’ve also become stronger as a people and as a nation, proving to the world that we won’t be silenced.
In the wake of the blockade fallout, we honoured HH our Emir from our heart – showing our patriotism and support for his leadership in the face of adversity through the visage of Tamim Al Majd. Conceptualized by Qatari artist Ahmed bin Majed Al Maadheed, the calligraphy-style rendering of His Highness soon became the iconic image of the blockade and Qatar’s rise above. Translating to ‘Tamim the Glorious’, it likeness now adorns buildings, public places, private homes, and vehicles across Qatar.
The I Love Qatar Network was super proud to bring our community the very first Qatar Social event on July 21, 2017 held at Qatar Museums’ Al Riwaq Gallery. Content creators from across Qatar and around the GCC came together for the first time under one roof to explore the future of content creation in Qatar, explore the roles of old and new media, and the impact of social media in reporting on the GCC crisis.
It was a chance for bloggers, vloggers, content creators and social media influencers to gather and make their voices heard. It was also where, for the first time, members of the media and public were given unprecedented town hall-style access to HE Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, Director of the Government Communications Office of Qatar to ask questions on the current GCC crisis and blockade against Qatar. The social media event of the year, it had such an impact that its official hashtag #QatarSpeaksOut became the top-trending hashtag on Twitter throughout the GCC. The Qatar Social will be back for 2018, set to take place in early March bigger and better than ever!
(Photo credit: TheLifePile.com)
As Qatar was reeling after a month of the blockade, it received a much-needed global vote of confidence when, on July 25, 2017 three Qatari women were named to the Forbes Arab Power 100 list. HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums; Mira Al Attiyah, Chief Executive of QNB Capital, and Sheikha Hanadi bint Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Founder and Chairperson of Amwal, were named among some of the top influential Arab female business leaders in the world. The news came as a welcome reprieve of positivity among the early days of the blockade when most news coming to Qatar was fraught with tension and uncertainty.
If there was one positive outcome of the trade embargo against Qatar it was to kick-start us into self-sufficiency. While we relied on imported goods, medicines, and foodstuffs from Turkey and Iran in the early months of the blockade, also going on behind-the-scenes was an invigorated movement to celebrate products grown, made, or sourced locally right here in Qatar. From farmer’s markets, to flying in 4,000 cows to boost the country’s dairy output, to supporting local brands such as QBake, Dandy, Baladna, and more – our nation rallied to inject our riyals back into our local economy.
In an historic move that took place back in August 2017, Qatar’s Ministry of Interior, the Qatar Tourism Authority, and Qatar Airways announced new visa-free entry to Qatar for 80 countries – effectively making Qatar’s immigration entry policies some of most relaxed in the GCC for tourists. Depending on the nationality of the visitor, visas from up to 30 days, 90 days, or 180 days could be availed free-of-charge upon arrival at Hamad International Airport. The move was made in an effort to show the world that Qatar would not isolate itself in the wake of the ongoing blockade, and if airspace and travel restrictions were being imposed upon Qatar by the blockading nations, then Qatar would instead invite the world to our doorstep.
Team Qatar high-jump all-star Mutaz Barshim put our nation on the map with his continued climb to the top of his game throughout 2017. The current World Champion in his sport, 2017 saw the 26-year-old athlete take home gold in the Men’s High-Jump Final at the IAAF World Championships held in London this past August. Continuing to break world records at Diamond League meets around the globe, the Team Qatar prodigy also bagged a silver medal podium finish last year at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Now that’s ajeeb!
With shipments to Qatar affected by the blockade, finalization of the new 28.5 sq km, $7.4 billion Hamad Port was pushed into overdrive in an effort to minimize the effect of the crisis and ensure that all critical goods, medicines, and supplies could reach Qatar unhindered. Inaugurated by HH the Emir on September 5, the port opened well ahead of schedule with a capacity of 7.6 million containers a year, and an average of 30 containers unloaded every hour due to the port’s state-of-the-art equipment.
Nearly four months after the blockade against Qatar began, HH the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani made his first public appearance on September 19 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, to make a statement on the crisis and human rights violations that continue against our nation and its people as a result. It was an historic moment for the country as public screening gatherings to watch His Highness’s speech were held across Qatar, and our entire nation tuned in to support Sheikh Tamim as he expressed his pride in our nation – pointing out that the countries who would stand against us did not estimate the will and loyalty of the Qatari people.
On September 27, Qatar opened its doors as the host country for the United Nations World Tourism Day, hosting the prestigious conference at the Sheraton Grand Doha Hotel & Resort. Milestones were Qatar being declared the region’s most open country due to its recent relaxation of entry-visa requirements and an improved online e-Visa service, and the announcement of a complete restructuring of the Qatar Tourism Agency amid the country’s updated 5-year National Tourism Strategy.
In early October 2017, Qatar got another well-deserved boost after a difficult summer amid the GCC Crisis when two of its brightest homegrown stars received respective rankings on Variety500’s Entertainment Leaders & Icons list. Nasser Al Khelaifi, Chairman and CEO of the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club and beIn Media Group, and Fatima Al Remaihi, CEO of the Doha Film Institute, both did Qatar proud by earning recognition as some of the entertainment industry’s most influential global business leaders.
If there’s one thing we love, it’s having more outdoor spaces to enjoy with family and friends! And as the cooler weather of the fall wrapped its arms around Qatar, the country’s first outdoor screening venue – the Drive In Doha began welcoming its first visitors at Aspire Zone! This multi-purpose space doesn’t just screen movies – it’s also a fully-fledged event space that’s featured some amazing Car Stunt Shows since it opened, plus there’s a massive wall showcasing street art from some of the country’s top graffiti artists. It’s a space for the community and the community approves! #Ajeeb!
One of the country’s most long-awaited projects at Qatar Foundation, the Qatar National Library finally opened its doors to the public this November at Education City. With a collection of almost 1 million books, periodicals, and special collections, the library boasts a unique heritage collection with original manuscripts from around the world. It also has a special children’s library, and loads of space to chill, relax, and read! Have you checked it out yet? You can sign up for free membership!
All of Doha followed their rumbling bellies to Hotel Park this December 6-9 for the very first Doha Burger Festival! Bringing together the juiciest, the sloppiest, the craziest, most extravagant patties all in one place for Qatar’s hungry public to sample, it was a foodie’s paradise and a strong reminder of just how much Qatar has to offer when it comes to homegrown brands and local restaurants offering up some seriously delicious eats. Did you check it out?
One of Qatar’s most anticipated infrastructure projects ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Doha Metro marked a major milestone in early December as Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that the project was 70% complete. With the full opening of the Metro slated for 2020, 16 trains have been received to date, with trials already ongoing. With four lines eventually in operation, the Doha Metro will cover an overall length of 300 kms with 100 stations. The hub of the Metro will be at Msheireb Downtown where all four lines meet.
Just ahead of Qatar National Day, Team Qatar set out on a nation-wide journey of hope, pride, and strength on December 14, carrying our flag across the country starting from the Team Qatar Winter Camp in Sealine, to Al Wakrah, the Corniche, Katara, Al Khor, Aspire, Education City, and finishing up in Darb Al Saai. The public came out in droves to cheer on our nation’s best athletes and sports figures as they made the trek across the country carrying the colours of flag high.
Have you sailed across the wide-open lanes of the Lusail Expressway yet? Officially opening on December 17, one day ahead of the expected Qatar National Day traffic crush, the project six years in the making has completely transformed accessibility between Lusail City and West Bay. Featuring four major tunnels along the main artery – one from Lagoona to Lusail, Lagoona to The Pearl, one at the former Katara junction, and one at the old Rainbow Roundabout, travel times getting back and forth have been cut in half. Where Rainbow Roundabout once stood, a new sentinel stands – the 5th of June arch named to mark the date of the start of the blockade.
(Photo credit: The Peninsula Qatar)
The country celebrated Qatar National Day 2017 in its most momentous way yet, as 300 drones put on a one-of-a-kind air and light show at Katara Cultural Village. Lighting up the skies with images of Tamim Al Majd and other patriotic patterns, the event drew thousands of people to Katara Amphitheatre where the performance was attended by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
In what may be the biggest cause for celebration, Qatar officially broke its silence for good this Qatar National Day on December 18 as HH our Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani launched his official Twitter account. In a show of strength for our nation the move was symbolic; showing that #QatarSpeaksOut and will continue to speak out and stand up for what is right and true in the face of crisis and adversity. Because we are one and we will continue to stand as one and face all that comes our way together as a nation and as a community throughout 2018 and beyond. And we couldn’t be more proud.
What other Qatar milestones would you add to this list? Tell us your thoughts on how you thought 2017 shaped up and what you’re looking forward to most for the New Year ahead in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to like and share this article!
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