While Emirates Airlines was the first to speak about the launch of NFTs, metaverse and so forth, and Qatar airlines followed with its own metaverse initiative with talk about NFTs to be included, it was Etihad Airline who actually will be launching its own NFT collection on Polygon in July 2022.

Under the name EY-ZERO1, UAE Etihad airlines will be launching the utility-driven NFT series features of ten highly detailed 3D aircraft models, each one showcasing a unique Etihad Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner livery. The NFT Collection will encompass a total of 2003 limited edition collectibles, symbolizing the year when Etihad Airways was established. The NFT Collection will go on sale at 6pm UAE time on 21st of July. The collectibles include Etihad’s Manchester City FC and Greenliner-themed aircraft, among others.

“We’re excited to launch our first NFT collection, EY-ZERO1, which not only offers collectors, aviation enthusiasts and travelers a unique work of art, but provides real-world travel and lifestyle benefits with Etihad Airways. NFTs and other metaverse technologies are revolutionizing the digital economy, and we are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to explore their potential to provide additional utility for our customers” , said Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group.

Purchasing an NFT will give owners immediate Etihad Guest Silver tier membership for one year, with 10 lucky NFT holders winning complimentary flight tickets with Etihad. NFT owners will also be given advance access to upcoming NFT collections as well as future metaverse products which the airline has planned as part of its Web3 strategy.

To celebrate the new collection, Etihad will be giving away 20 NFTs to people who pre-register on etihad.com/zero1 by 16 July. Each NFT will be priced at US$349 plus tax on etihad.arcube.io, and the sale will close on 18 August at 6pm UAE time.

The NFTs will also be available to purchase through the Etihad Guest Reward Shop, meaning the airline’s 7 million loyalty program members can redeem their Etihad Guest Miles to acquire an NFT.

EY-ZERO1 is set to be minted on Polygon blockchain, and Etihad Airways will be partnering with Aerial.is to track the CO2 emissions of the NFTs. In addition to offsetting the entire carbon footprint of the project, the airline will allocate all proceeds from the collection to purchase sustainable aviation fuel in 2022.

“As well as recognizing the artistic value of our aircraft liveries, our NFT collection has been designed to be as efficient as possible and support our wider sustainability and decarbonization efforts at Etihad Airways,” said  Douglas.

This week Qatar made headlines in the Blockchain, crypto, NFT and metaverse scene on several fronts. While the CEO of Qatar  Sovereign Wealth Fund praised Blockchain but shunned crypto, Qatar’s Central Bank Governor stated that crypto assets are a technology innovation that will take us to a new era of fast accessible payments and financial services. Topping all this was Qatar Airways increased foray into the realm of the metaverse, and NFTs.

It seems that while the government of Qatar has yet to make up its mind on whether it wants to enter the era of cryptocurrencies, or whether they agree that crypto will have to be dealt with at one point or another, they are taking steps towards integrating elements of blockchain and CBDC into their strategies.During the Qatar Economic Forum Qatar Central Bank Governor Bandar Bin Mohammed Bin Saoud Al Thani admitted that Qatar is in the foundation stage of investigating a central bank Digital Currency (CBDC). As he noted, “Many central banks are now considering issuing CBDC, and we are not an exception to that. We are evaluating the pros and cons of issuing the CBDC and to find the proper and the right technology and the platform to issue.”He then noted, “Crypto assets are a technology innovation, and in my view it might take us to a new era of fast accessible payment and financial services.  “Those crypto assets which are not underlying by assets or monetary authority might be less credible.”

On the other hand Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund CEO Mansoor Al Mahmoud revealed that the wealth fund has no interest in investing in Bitcoin, but is still very much interested in exploring blockchain.

He was noted as saying, “Our team in the technology space is exploring opportunities in the blockchain,” Al Mahmoud said in an interview. He adds “This is the space that we’re interested in, not the currency itself.”

In the midst of these discussions Qatar Airways expressed its intention to include the purchase of tickets for physical flights through the QVerse metaverse, and the incorporation of NFTs. 

All this comes while the FIFA World Cup 2022 has partnered with the likes of crypto.com and Algorand Blockchain, and crypto exchange CoinMENA announces it is servicing clients in Qatar through its license in Bahrain. 

Qatar at one point will have to come to grips with the fact that with blockchain the metaverse and digitization comes digital assets, whether they are called cryptocurrencies, crypto assets, virtual assets, tokens or NFTs.

For example if Qatar were to utilize blockchain in the energy sector, and work with companies such as PermianChain which is tokenizing natural resources such as flared gas, and if they wanted to utilize PermianChain’s energy token marketplace, they would at some point need to use the DEC Token to optimize their experience. Tokens and Blockchain go hand in hand despite attempts to de-couple them.

One cannot implement blockchain, invest in blockchain nor create a CBDC to be held in digital wallets, without addressing the elephant in the room which is crypto and or digital asset. So instead of being the black sheep of the GCC Crypto hype, wouldn’t it be better if Qatar was the winning stallion.

Qatar will witness a blockchain revolution summit on the 26th of May 2022 at St. Regis Doha Qatar, with the participation of Dr. Don Tapscott, Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute, and well known as a leading Blockchain expert.

The summit is being organized by the Blockchain Research Institute Middle East, the first regional branch of Blockchain Research Institute based out of Qatar. The event is set to discuss opportunities to create industry solution frameworks and guidelines leveraging blockchain technologies to secure data, reduce costs and improve timelines.

The interesting highlights of this summit are the speakers and sponsors. Aside from Don Tapscott, speakers include Fadi Nasser, Chief Commercial Officer of Meeza Qatar. Meeza is also sponsoring the event. Nebil Ben Aissa, Chief Executive officer for Nexxo, a private equity investment network dedicated to FinTech is also participating.

In addition Khalid Al Ansari a Doctor of Law (JD) and a Ph.D. candidate in Islamic Finance and Economy at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar currently working on finalizing his Ph.D. dissertation in digital economy and blockchain, is also participating as a speaker.  

While both, Shahid A Syed, Head of Transaction Banking & Innovation Dukhan Bank and Mr. Gudni Stiholt Adalsteinsson Acting CEO Doha Bank & Chief Treasury & Investment Officer are also participating as speakers with Doha Bank sponsoring as well.

Dr. Ammar Darwish Al-Obaidani President of the Oman Blockchain Club (2017-2019) is also participating. Since 2019, he has been leading a government company that develops customized integrated digital solutions as a CEO (Frontier Technology LLC).

The significance lies in the level of participants which including the banking and academic sector as well as investors.

This summit comes at a significant time in Qatar. In April for example Qatar Airways announced  it has stepped into the metaverse with the launch of Qverse a Virtual reality experience for visitors on its website with MetaHuman cabin crew, called Sama giving virtual tours. Sama’s name originates from Arabic and translates to ‘sky’. She is a high fidelity digital human brought to life using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, real-time 3D creation tool that’s used by leading game makers. Neutral Digital developed the VR experience for Qatar airways.

In addition Ooreedo Qatar, mobile telecom group, will be holding its EA Sports FIFA22 Champions Cup being entirely broadcasted in the metaverse and will offer exclusive NFT tokens. The tournament is taking place on May May 24, 25, and 28 at Aspire Ladies Sports Hall in Doha in front of e-Sports enthusiasts who will get the chance to see prominent gamers compete for the title.

Major FIFA and Qatari influencers will also attend the tournament, in addition to a plethora of entertainment and activities to ensure an unforgettable night. Ooredoo Nation – Gamers’ Land, the company’s own eSports brand, will also offer a selection of exclusive non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“We are proud and excited to be venturing into the world of Web 3.0 technologies with this latest eSports development, which aligns perfectly with our strategic commitment to investment in innovation,” said Nasser bin Hamad bin Nasser Al Thani, Chief Commercial Officer at Ooredoo.

“We see eSports as one of the key areas of focus in this digital era, and an area in which we can explore the many opportunities to offer our customers an unrivalled experience.”

This comes after FIFA2022 announced that crypto.com will be sponsoring and AlGorand Blockchain will be a partner. It also comes after CoinMENA, crypto exchange announced it is serving clients in Qatar which prompted a reply from Qatar Central Bank noting that it has not licensed any crypto exchanges in Qatar and will take legal actions against any crypto exchange which claims to be operating with a license in Qatar. When questioned by LaraontheBlock Dina Semaan noted, “ People took this out of context, we never said we were licensed or regulated in Qatar, we said we now offer our services to Qatar, which could be from any location in the world and in this case from our licensed entity in Bahrain.” She added, “We can support all GCC countries and other MENA countries upon approval from Central Bank of Bahrain.”