The Drum goes to Qatar!


The Chess Drum’s Dr. Daaim Shabazz will be in Doha, Qatar next week to visit local universities and will certainly seek out the chess venues. The small nation on the Arabian peninsula is home to GM Mohamed al-Modiahki and his wife GM Zhu Chen. Zhu now plays under the Qatari flag.

Qatar is one of the nations in the region making a push to promote high-level chess events. Bahrain recently had a successful event and Qatar has hosted a number of tournaments. The United Arab Emirates has also done a great for promoting chess and will host half of the 2010 Linares SuperGM tournament.

The Gulf region of the Middle East may just become the next rising chess region on the globe. The Chess Drum will be there to find out!

Qatar Qatar Qatar

Qatar women win Category E prize at the
2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.


  1. Thanks man. I’ve always wanted to go to Qatar. Now I’ll be blogging from there. I’m going to be taking a boatload of pics for The Drum. Hopefully, I can get in touch with the chess community. I met an IM from Qatar after the Olympiad and told him I was coming. His name is Hussein Aziz Nezad… nice person. His ICC handle doesn’t work though. I hope I can get in touch with someone. I know al-Modiakhi is probably seconding his wife in the Invitational tournament.

  2. Its 8:11am in Philadelphia, cold but sunny. Houses are lined together in row fashion. Some are in good repair, some are not. Blacktop streets, cold concrete pavements. What’s the environment in Qatar? Are the people friendly? Have you played any CHESS. I would set up a board and clock in an busy area and see the response. Give us the feed back. What a culture experience!!!!! take care Daaim.

  3. I’m in Qatar now. It’s 10:09pm (22:09hrs) and it’s about 70 degrees. I plan to go to the chess club here. My host knows where it is. Had very nice flights. No major problems.

    There is a beautiful Museum of Islamic Art here. I hope to visit the souks… maybe to get a suit made. 🙂 I’ll post pictures as soon as I’m able to do so.

  4. hello Mr. Shabazz,
    Have you visited Education City? That is where I will be working next year. Let me know what chess clubs you find. I am very interested in the chess situation there. Have a great trip!

    Noah Spaulding

  5. I spent some time at the Qatar Chess Association last night and spoke with the President and Executive Director. They are on the 13th floor of the Olympic Committee building. I played several blitz games with some of the players… coffeehouse chess mostly. I missed al-Modiahki by an hour. I had a good chat with the President, but we talked more about politics and economics. I have some pictures coming.

  6. Daaim – Great pictures from Qatar. It’s nice to see that their chess federation has the appropriate stature .. being housed in the building of the QOC. Just like a real sport!

  7. Thanks! The construction here is staggering. I’m going to post some pictures later today (2:21am here 5:21pm in Dallas) that have nothing to do with chess. You’ll like them. This will be the site of some strong tournaments in the future, so we may as well get used to it.

  8. OK… I plan to go to the Museum of Islamic Art, but I’ve decided to post these pics. Hope you all like the variety. I’m trying to capture the environment. BTW, the mall here is very different from the mall in the states… it’s family-oriented and not a place were teens round around without any control. Lots of families, couples and baby carriages. It’s a very comforting sight.

    Apartment Tower and Hilton under construction.

    Lots of construction throughout Doha.

    Urban Planning and Development… pretty busy these days.

    Qurashi Store… they sell the famous Aoud fragrance for men.

    Yes… they have McDonalds too. 😐

    Sheraton Hotel cafe… nice!

    A not so simple salad… hummus, tabouleh, stewed okra (good!), marinated vegetables and olive medley! They had an incredible buffet with all types of cuisine.

    Daaim at the Sheraton Hotel.

    Lamborghini outside the apartment building.
    The owner probably went to the spa (to the left).

    Official chess and bowling associations in the Olympic Association building.

    Billboard for Carnegie-Mellon University

    Daaim Shabazz in Dr. Marion Oliver’s office at Carnegie-Mellon.

    Lebanese students at Carnegie-Mellon.

    Lab School for Virginia Commonwealth University.

    Not sure what these buildings are for, but they are interesting indeed!

    More coming! Going to the market now. 🙂

  9. Here is the rest of the pics I intended to put up today. I have more coming after these.

    Tornado Tower (new office building)

    Billboard for Museum of Islamic Art

    Qatar University’s College of Business and Economics

    Mosque off the road.

    Dr. Salaheldin Ismail (Qatar University) and Dr. Daaim Shabazz (Florida A&M)

    Jetskiing after work… there were a lot of them out there.

    Qatar at night.

    Back at the chess club… blitz battles erupt!

    Khaled (Palestine) and Siddique (India) playing Age of Empires.
    What no chess??? Traitors! 🙂

  10. how about pictures of houses where people live. Greats pics. neighbors of the common man and uncommon man. Show some pictures of you crushing the local chess players.

  11. I played some games with an Indian player and he won 2/3. In the first game, I won on time (crushing); second, he lost his queen early but I ended up flagging; third, he lost a piece but I took too long again and end up losing over the board when he got some connected pawns rolling. I then played a young FM (three games). The games were interesting. First was a 2…e6 Sicilian and went into a Maroczy Bind where he won a R+P ending. The second was Sicilian Paulsen where I won and the last was a Rossolimo where I won convincingly.

    Daaim Shabazz analyzing with FM Ghanim Al-Sulaiti. He is a student at Carnegie-Mellon and has represented Qatar in several events.

    Daaim Shabazz analyzing with FM Ghanim Al-Sulaiti. He is a student at Carnegie-Mellon and has represented Qatar in several events including two Olympiads.

    There are some pictures of houses coming, but some are unfinished. You will not believe the single-family dwellings. It is harder to accommodate larger families and situations where a man may have a house for each of his wives (only if he can afford it). It is indeed rare. Here are some galleries from my Facebook account. You will see some of the houses at the second link. I’ll post more pics soon.

  12. Great pics! The area looks clean and well kept. Was your trip bussiness? or pleasure? Looks like you enjoyed yourself. I did notice some players smoking. Is that the norm there? Take care, Mel

  13. Wow! Beautiful pictures and obviously a lovely place with lovely people ,thanks brother Shabazz. A friend of mine just visited there about a month ago now I have an insight as to why! haha

  14. @Melvin
    What’s up man! I am there for Spring Break, but I went to visit universities to see the possibility of joint projects such as student/faculty exchange and study abroad. Qatar is well-kept and clean and the work is primarily done by migrant workers such as Filipinos, Indians and some from Africa. Coffee-drinking is big here and local women here are covered yet glamourous. As a female friend of mine (who visited Dubai) told me, “Their jewelry, purse and shoe game is fierce.”

    Yes sir! Lovely people here. I walked over and introduced myself to a group of students met a young Qatari man today named Saad Al-Matwi who offered me “Arabian Coffee”. We sat and discussed many topics while I downed about four small cups of the coffee. Sharp young man… found out he was the Student Government President! I met an Indian from Dubai named Yasser Khan who had lived in the U.S. and a young brother named Melvin Udeh who was visiting from Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh. These young men were very, very sharp!

    You will enjoy it. They are building so many family dwellings. The construction is unbelievable. The roundabouts are tricky when driving so get ready for them!

  15. Best memories of Qatars

    • I particularly enjoyed observing Gulf fashion. The women were ravishing in their decorative black abayas… their jewelry, purse, shoes and fragrance are key accessories in Islamic fashion in the Gulf. Tastefully done and very appealing. This is in contrast to the dusty burqas in Afghanistan the western media likes to show as a symbol of the Muslim woman. Many women use henna dyes to decorate their hands. The men were handsome, well-groomed and very smart in their crisp, white thobes. The fashion statements here are made with the eye glasses, cufflinks, pen, watch and fragrance. One of the most popular fragrances is Aoud.

    • The culture of dates and coffee. I have experienced this several times, but the dates are a must in Arab countries. While I didn’t see the variety that I imagined, I made several trips to Bateel to buy dates as gifts. There were many varieties with orange and lemon peels, almonds and pecans. Unfortunately, I did not see the sesame seed and fennel seed dates that I had grown fond of. I had some Arabian coffee (as mentioned above) and also some Turkish coffee (pictured in the slide show).

    • The architecture was absolutely stunning. What more can I say?
    • The family orientation of Arab society. Once a week, the malls close for “family night”. That means only families and single ladies are permitted in the malls. Malls have a different purpose in Arab society. They are centers of joy and social interaction. Of course, single men and single women do not openly approach each other, but it is common to see groups of single men and single women moving around the mall. It’s quite a sight to see. I’ve noticed a similar family orientation of shopping in South Africa and Italy. It such a shift from the crass ritual of mall shopping in America.

  16. Ha! I hear you. Mall shopping in the US is more like a competitive sport than a family social event. Although the growing trend of these multi-use, outdoor style developments may be changing that. Shopping + dining + big bookstore + movie theaters + residential, in a community designed to simulate an old time, small town, downtown.

    Regarding the fashion that you described, I noticed the same thing at the Olympiad in Turin. While the garments may evoke conservatism and modesty, the accessories .. shoes, jewelry, etc, can often be quite stylish .. lots of bling.

  17. 3/22/09
    Wow! Brother Daaim sounds and looks like you had a wonderful trip! Are there any plans for the U.S. youth to compete in Qatar! Are any programs available for chess sponsorship, international scholarships, and overseas chess seminars and training.


    Abdul Khabeer Abdus-Shakoor MA, MPA
    Community Visioneer

  18. Paul,

    The Islamic view of chess is that it is not forbidden. Many Muslims play chess and the only issue is to make sure one keeps prayer during play. There were many debates about a thousand years ago and it even surfaces today as was the case in Iran. However, Iran is a very active federation and a nation boasting promising talent.

    An earlier version was played with dice and was discouraged, but there is nothing about chess (other than the Catholic chess pieces) that may be considered questioned. The Moors (African Muslims) brought shatranj (chess) in to Spain, but after they were driven out after almost 800 years, the Spainards changed the nature of the game.

    You can go to the link below and follow the discussion on the origins of chess.



    Sa’id bin Jubair (chess/Islam):

  19. Hi, Daaim your pics are really cool, they make me want to visit Qatar, I loved the creativity of the creators of those buildings, the forms are beautiful and so innovated, I have a friend that lives in pakistan but in 2 months he´s going to live at Qatar, that´s why I was looking pictures from there and found your site with these pictures, well take care!

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