National Sports Day!

Obesity and diabetes has been an escalating problem for Qatar. With around 70% of Qatari men and women overweight, the country is facing a crisis similar to that of the United States. However, one of the root causes I have found is the overly convenient access to fast food. In Doha, everything delivers. I mean, EVERYTHING. McDonalds, KFC, Popeyes, Applebees, Pizza, Arabic food, Chinese food…you name it. I have at times fallen victim to the ease of having your food delivered right to your doorstep. In a country that can boast the title of being the richest country per capita, money is not an obstacle and so neither is eating out twice a night or calling a delivery service. In response to the rising obesity problem, Emir Hamid Bin Al-Thani has created a national holiday called National Sports Day that falls on the second Tuesday of February. It’s actually a good idea. There are sports and games for kids, races, competitions all on iconic sites throughout the metropolitan area. It’s a chance for families to spend time together outdoors. Though this effort only scrapes the surface of the epidemic, it’s key to developing a health conscious nation.

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Spain vs Uraguay

This past week I had the opportunity to watch Spain vs Uruguay play in Qatar. Though this match-up does appear to be random, when you’re an oil rich monarch like Qatar, flying the two national teams in to play is but a dent in their wallets. The game was completely sold out, and since the majority of the audience hailed from every corner of the world, there was not an overwhelming preference for either team.

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Narrative of the “Third World”

On the journey to enlightenment, political correctness and world salvation, people have started to blindly repost videos and articles, whether via facebook or twitter, to establish themselves as global citizens. However, one video that has been “trending” in the past couple of days has somewhat irked me. In general, I have become frustrated with AFRICA commonly being depicted as the embodiment of all poverty and dispare.

This video however is filmed in Haiti but the same sentiment exists. I would like to note the title of the video, “First World Problems Read By Third World People”. If you have time, please watch this one minute video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3HrkQaPHAA

The origins of #firstworldproblems, was in response to the comedic ridiculousness of a statement you may have made. Problems are relative. Relatively speaking, most of us cannot compare our “problems” to those who live in abject poverty, anywhere in the world, yet that doesn’t diminish its importance or significance. 

Access to potable drinking problem is a fundamental necessity, but turning a satirical meme into social engagement missed the mark in addressing collective change. I personally know I have so much to be grateful for. But juxtaposing the suffering of others with my “first world” life, congers up pity and resentment. The narrative of Africans/Blacks as victims to force people to commiserate their destitute has never sat well with me. On a side note, the term “Third-World” has colonialist connotations..

I’m just saying, we can do better.

 

 

Doha (Revisited)

When I tell people I am attending Georgetown University…in Doha. Generally, I am met with this glazed over stare as if I told them I went to school on the moon. The first question I run across is “Why is there another Georgetown?” The second, somewhat understandably, is what or where is Qatar. After finishing my fall semester I have had a hard time describing my time and experiences here. I tell all the adults what they want to hear, about the phenomenal academics, and how boys and girls have different dorms etc, but there is so much more to this school and to Doha. Georgetown has all the benefits and perks of high school without all the gossip and insecurities.

After returning to the United States for Christmas break I realized how much I missed Doha. Especially my daily doses of sugar (with some tea)..yes I meant what I said, while discussing and solving the world’s problems. I know that I have taken on a rather unconventional study abroad location. I sometimes look at my friends with envy who are taking Italy, Denmark and France by a storm, but I have realized this has been perfect for me and where I am now in my interests. Yet, there is no question about my excitement to return to Connecticut College my Senior year and re-immerse myself into the “typical” American college experience.

My time here has been invaluable. The students and professors irreplaceable. I can already tell this semester is going to fly by, and I’ll be one step closer to being swept away from the cradle of college and into the REAL WORLD.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We are 19 days into the New Year, and I cannot believe the rapid pace at which my junior year is going. On the first day of classes, every senior was asked the daunting question of “What are you going to do after graduation?” And for some strange reason, even though the question wasn’t addressed to me, my heart would start racing. It has been exciting to see friends and classmates going through the “post-grad” process, but better them than me. You begin to realize how many opportunities there really are, and not necessarily going straight to a 9-5. There are fellowships, scholarships etc. that allow students to not only put off becoming a “real person” in society but make their parents happy simultaneously. 

This semester I am taking 4 classes, and interestingly enough two are on the United States. It just happened to work out that way but my energy has been so focused on the Middle East these past semesters, I began to realize as an American passport holder, I didn’t know as much as I should about the land of the free. The classes I am taking this semester are:

  1. Advanced Arabic
  2. United States Political Systems (USPS)
  3. Lobbyists and Interests
  4. Iranian Foreign Policy

One of my professors jokingly scolded me for taking two classes with him, USPS and Lobbyists and Interests, because I’ll soon discover that he recycles his jokes…even the bad ones. This same professor actually wrote one of my favorite articles from Al-Jazeera, and I didn’t even realize it was him until last week.

I’m hoping to do more traveling/sight seeing in Doha this semester so I’ll have more to write! 

Again, Happy New Year and safe travels where ever in the world you may be!

 

Iraqi artist: Hani Mazhar

Today I had the honor and privilege of attending a lecture with Iraqi artist Hani Mazhar who worked along side esteemed Palestinian artist Naji al-Ali (who was assassinated 25 years ago). His work is pretty amazing.

Translation "I think therefore I am" by Naji al-Ali

Translation “I think therefore I am” by Naji al-Ali

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Unknown title By Hani Mazhar

Unknown title By Hani Mazhar

 

Faith & such

One of my closest friends here has recently brought up an issue that has forced me to reflect on the reality of where I am. Living within the confines of Education City, I have been exposed to the water downed version of khaleeji, (Gulf) society. This friend of mine, lets call her ‘X’, has been clashing with her interpretation of Islam and what is expected of her both in the public and private sphere. Currently a junior, ‘X” spent the past two years living with her uncle who grew up in Saudi Arabia and observes strict interpretations of Islam. ‘X’s mother is  not muhajaba (someone who wears the veil/hijab) and ‘X’ was neither expected nor pressured to wear the hijab growing up in the United States. When she moved to Qatar however, she was forced by her uncle to not only wear the hijab, but the abiya as well . She struggled to maintain her identity, and felt like a prisoner in her own skin. Family to her was too important for  to “rebel”, and make issue of her situation so she obeyed his rules; dictating who she could and could not be friends with, coming home straight after school, forbidden from attending school events. She was miserable, and living the life that he wanted for her, molding her in what he saw as “perfect” Muslim girl to be a role model for his two younger daughters.

Mid-way through sophomore year, she had had enough and couldn’t take the pressure and decided to move into the dorms. Thank goodness, because who knows what her uncle would have thought of me. However, the patriarchal interpretations of Islam were still infiltrating her life. Living on her own for the first time, she has been struggling with finding a balance between the Islam she has grown up with her entire life and what is largely interpreted as the “right” Islam here in Qatar. For example, just the other day, a guy who she is “interested” in, told her that he hopes his wife would wear the hijab for him so everyone would know she belonged to him. It was easy for me to brush off the ridiculousness of that statement but for her it was a reality that she must face. She has a real and concrete fear that she won’t find a Muslim man who respects her “liberal” views of what Islam is, and I use the term “liberal” very loosely. I am not a theologist or pious myself, so these are just my observations.

Patriarchy is ingrained all societies (the United States included) but multiplied in a country where all the systems in place reiterate the “role” that women and men should play. The Emir of Qatar however has taken great strides to ensure that ALL Qatari citizens have access to education, (all Qatari students here receive a monthly stipend and all education expenses paid for). But the very essence and foundation of every day life, in my opinion, restricts any sort of deviation of what is perceived as social norms. Faith, in all facets is not a static entity but one that progresses over time. This is why I have never understood the call for fundamentalism in any faith…

This raises the question, regardless of faith of how we can impose our interpretations of such a personal beliefs on other people. I think you can see where this is going, but it has always frustrated me how religious factions have chosen to stress the “can’t”, “forbidden”, “haram” “sin” aspects of religion versus the inclusive, love thy neighbor interpretations of the text. Maybe instead of telling people what they “can’t” do, who they “can’t” love we can emphasize what we “can” do for ourselves and those around us. Yes, this post is turning a little “kumbiya” but I believe I am too young to lose hope in my generation. The sad thing is, I see us making the same mistakes, if not worse, that our parents have made…

Tribeca Film Festival takes Doha!

The Tribeca Film Festival (Doha Film Festival) will be here this weekend for eight days! Two friends and I just bought our tickets to go see four films:

Children of Sarajevo

“In the aftermath of war in the Balkans, Sarajevo remains battle-scarred in this affecting family drama. Rahima, a 23-year-old orphan whose parents perished in wartime, struggles to keep her delinquent younger brother on the right side of the law, her force of will strengthened by her staunch faith in Islam.”

In The Shadow of Men

“New freedoms have recently come to the citizens of Egypt, but what is it like to be a woman in that nation today? Through intimate conversations, four women from different backgrounds are transformed into unique, authentic figures who imprint themselves on our memories as they go through their own personal revolutions”

Horses of God

“Inspired by terrorist attacks in Casablanca in 2003, ‘God’s Horses’ follows two young men over a 10-year period, examining the events that gradually draw them from innocent youthful excitement toward terrorism and, ultimately, sacrifice. The film was a huge success in its native Morocco and has won international critical acclaim.”

Valentino’s Ghost

“This courageous documentary looks at the historical, political and social context in which simplistic representations of Arabs, Muslims and Islam have come about in the US media. The film inspired much discussion after its premiere; lively dialogue is sure to follow its first appearance in the Middle East.”

Not the most uplifting of films but I’m convinced it’s because we’re all International Relations majors. We all seem to be drawn to these types of stories because it’s what we study every day. You would think we would want to take a break. They all look incredible though. I am looking forward to having a chance to getting off campus and having a break from studying…finally.

Abu Dhabi!

I never want to leave! I am staying with close family friends that are spoiling me beyond belief..but I’m not complaining. I’ve had Knafe (my favorite desert in the world) for lunch two days in a row…such a rebel, and I have eaten more in these past two days, than I have the past two months in college.  A slight exaggeration but you get the point. I went to the movies, and saw James Bond, went jet skiing, and today went to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The grandeur exterior was breath taking while the interior hosts the largest and most expensive chandelier in the world. You would never expect a place of worship to hold such a title but I guess that’s Abu Dhabi for you.