Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

QIFF 2014

This year’s Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) has moved to a new venue, but will still retain many of its usual offerings, officials confirmed this week.

For the first time, the annual event be held at the Hotel Park on the Corniche, from March 29 to April 8.

Previously, few details were available about the upcoming event. But more information was shared by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) yesterday.

Van Darren Martinez

Qatar International Food Festival

Perhaps most importantly to some, the QTA confirmed that fireworks shows will indeed be held each night at 8pm.

There will also be food trucks and Dinner in the Sky, as well as a live cooking theater from 5pm to 9pm daily.

The new venue means parking should be a bit easier than in previous years, as there is an underground pay-for-parking garage with spaces for 2,500 vehicles onsite.

What’s different

Besides the move from the MIA Park, this year’s festival has a few other new features.

For example, Qatar’s 2017 Year of Culture partner Germany won’t have a special pavilion to itself.

Mr. Taco

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Instead, it will showcase its cuisine and entertainment at a “Cultural Zone” that includes nine other embassies, such as Ethiopia, Mexico, the Philippines, the US and Qatar, among others.

Another new addition includes a garden picnic where families can buy a basket, collect a blanket and sit on the grass to eat their meals.

Food-related movies will also be screened outdoors from 9pm to 10pm, courtesy of the Doha Film Institute and Qatar Foundation.

And as previously announced, set menus will also be on offer from March 23 to April 8. Visitors can purchase at least three items for QR59, QR99, QR139 and QR179.

Brian Candy / Doha News

2016 Qatar International Food Festival

Meanwhile, kiosks, food trucks and stalls will continue to sell small bites for QR5 to QR35 a dish.

And to avoid wastage, unsold and “untouched” food will be given to Eid Charity to distribute to those in need.

The festival will go from 2pm to 10pm on weekdays and from 2pm to 11pm on weekends until April 8.

Who’s excited? Thoughts?

Ben Gould

Lightning over The Pearl on 19 March 2017

Qatar’s residents have gotten used to rainy weather of late, but last night’s thunder and lightning was still something special.

As Doha’s skies lit up just before 9pm last night, many residents stepped outdoors to capture the moment.

“The lightning lasted for probably 20 minutes,” Ben Gould who was over at the Pearl-Qatar told Doha News.

“It’s a cliché to say, it but it WAS amazing and it’s the first time I’ve really focused on the sky for any length of time and the lightning was coming in thick and fast,” he added.

Meanwhile, fellow resident Susie Billings shared this image on Twitter of lightning appearing to strike earth in the distance:

And Rhonda Allam took this video from her table at Damasca One in Souq Waqif:

This morning, Pearl resident Anna said that she’d spotted some damage following the storm:

Rain was forecast in Qatar through Tuesday, including thunderstorms tonight.

But after a tumultuous few days, the meteorology department said to expect “slight dust and partly cloudy with weak chance of light scattered rain at places at first” tomorrow.

Did you take any photos or videos last night? We’d love to see them! Thoughts?

Alex Gill/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar will face the International Labor Organization (ILO) tomorrow to defend itself against allegations of “forced labor.”

The ILO voted to investigate complaints filed by unions last year, and even visited Qatar to inspect working conditions for expats.

The complaint asserted that Qatar “fails to maintain a legal framework sufficient to protect the rights of migrant workers consistent with international law and to enforce the legal protections that currently do exist.”

Shrief Fadl/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It also lambasted Qatar’s former kafala sponsorship law, calling it “among the most restrictive in the Gulf region” because it makes it hard to leave an abusive employer.

The ILO had the option to recommend the establishment of a commission of inquiry, its highest investigative mechanism, to take a closer look at the complaints.

But last March, it decided to give Qatar a year to work on the issues, as the country was in the middle of changing its laws.

Kafala changes

Qatar officials submitted a document to the ILO last month, outlining its labor rights progress in recent years.

It highlighted several legislative changes, including Law No. 21 of 2015, which took effect in December.

Qatar called the legislation a “repeal of kafala.”

Craig Sunter/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The new sponsorship law does indeed make it easier for expats to leave the country and change jobs.

But foreigners are still required to obtain exit permits from their employers.

And while it is now easier for some people to switch jobs, the no objection certificate requirement has not been abolished.

Instead, only workers on fixed-term contracts can now change jobs after their contract is completed without an NOC.

Those on open-ended contracts must work for five years before being able to do so. And all foreigners would need labor ministry approval before taking up new employment.

Domestic worker rights

The progress report also included information about a draft law on domestic workers, which Qatar’s Cabinet approved last month.

This legislation would provide legal protection to Qatar’s nannies, drivers and cooks by creating a common contract for them.

Mopaw Foundation/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Currently, these workers are not required to sign contracts with their employers and cannot file complaints against them with the Ministry of Labor.

According to the document submitted to the ILO, the law would establish a 10-hour workday with periods for rest and food.

It would also mandate one day off a week. However, it is unclear how the law would be enforced, as inspectors are not usually sent to people’s homes to look for labor violations.

What’s next

Rights groups are closely watching this week’s session, and have urged the ILO not to close the complaint against Qatar.

Last week, Amnesty International urged that the process continues. James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty’s Global Issues Program, said in a statement:

“This is a critical juncture for migrant workers in Qatar. The government has made some public commitments in response to ILO pressure, but its claims that it has abolished the sponsorship system simply do not add up.

If the ILO governing body endorses Qatar’s inadequate reforms by dropping this complaint, this could have damaging consequences for migrant rights in Qatar and across the region.”

Thoughts?